My family and I are South Dakotans by choice and are proud to declare South Dakota #1 place to live. Combined, my immediate family has lived in US states of New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, Ohio and Iowa. We all lived abroad as well. And despite the great lives we led in these other locations, my parents, sister and I have chosen to raise our families here. We have taken advantage of excellent schools, medical care, housing opportunities, mission work and churches. Without a doubt, South Dakota is #1 in our lives.
But South Dakota ranks #1 in another area.
According to a national database:
South Dakota counties hold positions #1, 2 and 3 for the poorest in the United States.
A total of four South Dakota counties are in the top ten United States counties with the highest poverty rates.
Even more distressing is how hunger affects our residents. One out of every 8 individuals in South Dakota is food insecure- defined by the USDA as “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake”. A whopping 1/5 children AND seniors over 50 are risk of going hungry in South Dakota as well. Half of individuals served by Feeding South Dakota (our state-run food pantry through Feeding America) are children and infants.
This is ironic as South Dakota is an agricultural state. Aren’t we at least able to feed our residents on this many acres? Furthermore, nearly 100 billion pounds of food go to waste in our country every year. South Dakota has kept pace with this statistic as well.
There is hope we won’t be #1 for long.
We have numerous untapped resources at our disposal.
South Dakotans are hardworking, landowning, rural farmers and urban gardeners, wanting a change for the better. The generous and intelligent South Dakota youth show promise to change our economic and political landscape in one or two generations. So what can we do now?
Existing Government Programs, Churches and Other Non-profit Organizations
If we are fortunate enough to have a permanent residence, we can replace some of our lawn with food or effectively use the garden we have. I have yet to meet a selfish gardener. We are proud of the abundant harvest and eager to share with family, friends and those in need. All 50 states participate in Feeding America programs. Consider donating bumper crops to local food banks through their Plant a Row program. Use the Falling Fruit app to find the closest food bank (even those not in the Feeding America program).
Project Food Forest is a local non-profit committed to work with communities and plant public food forests around the Sioux Falls, SD area. They also run several programs that further their mission from edible landscape design consults to classes to encouraging individuals to plant and share edible plants.
Our Intellect and Compassion
Second, recognize the complexity and scope of the problem. My clinic is full of patients whose barriers to fresh produce include lack of permanent residence, access to culturally appropriate foods, transportation, and appropriate finances. South Dakotans of all ages need food now and a sustainable plan for the future.
Food banks typically have access to more nonperishable items than fresh produce. What you are eager to donate, organizations like Ample Harvest can help you find homes for may be what is desperately needed by a child, disabled adult or widow.
If you have time, volunteer at your local Food Pantry and/or Soup Kitchen. Consider submitting your stories to GleanforGood.net to inspire others how you uniquely approach this problem. Donate funds to local backpack programs.
Our Residents and Children
If you care for children at home or at work, teach them importance of self-sufficiency. Get them involved with planting produce, harvesting and preparing meals. Have them bring bumper crops to the food pantry for an excellent lesson in simple ways to help the under-resourced.
This is what Glean for Good is all about. If you are interested in being more self-sufficient or helping those in need, then we want you to follow us. Please also consider submitting blog posts to tell your story.