No one should have to go hungry. That’s why Gate City Bank has donated more than $120,000 and deployed multiple team member volunteers to transform a pop-up food pantry into a permanent hunger relief program in West Fargo, ND – the first of its kind in the community.
West Fargo Eats is largely made possible because of the Food Share Alliance, which is made up of Gate City Bank, Lutheran Church of the Cross, YWCA Cass Clay and Great Plains Food Bank. Each organization brings unique expertise to the table that helps ensure sustainability, For a Better Way of Life®.
“When individuals and families experience unexpected food insecurity, they are faced with impossible financial choices,” says Kevin Hanson, Gate City Bank President & CEO. “Through our support of West Fargo Eats, in the form of financial gifts and team member volunteer hours, we are giving families the help they need today for a better tomorrow.”
These community partners are helping to ensure that the West Fargo Eats food pantry maintains three days’ worth of canned goods, cereal, rice, noodles, bread, dairy products and protein/meat to help those in need. Hygiene items are also offered.
“As we work to create hunger-free communities in North Dakota, it’s important to remember that solving this crisis is about much more than ending a hungry feeling because someone missed a meal,” says Melissa Sobolik, President of Great Plains Food Bank. “It’s about creating the possibility for someone to have a better future.”
The West Fargo Eats pop-up location started in May 2020, and Gate City Bank joined the Food Share Alliance in June 2021. The Bank appreciates having been able to partner with Lutheran Church of the Cross, YWCA Cass Clay and Great Plains Food Bank to help the operation grow since its inception.
Lutheran Church of the Cross committed 2.5% of its capital campaign for ongoing funding, along with the physical space for the new permanent food relief program and the volunteers who drive it.
Gate City Bank has also been a longtime supporter of YWCA Cass Clay, helping the nonprofit build transitional housing in 2010 and an economic enrichment wing in 2015. In 2017, the Bank stepped up again to pledge $1.5 million (the largest donation in YWCA Cass Clay’s history) toward the Grace Garden expansion. The 30-unit women’s supportive housing initiative promotes an environment of safety, stability and community for women and children who have experienced domestic abuse and poverty.
“We joined to bring differing expertise – faith, the social sector and business – to address a community issue,” says Erin Prochnow, CEO of YWCA Cass Clay. “Now we’re united heart and hands in this mission.”
Additionally, Gate City Bank is a longstanding, trusted partner of Great Plains Food Bank in supporting hunger relief throughout the region. One example is when the Bank provided funding for a semi-truck to travel across North Dakota and western Minnesota to provide food for rural communities. The Bank also provided volunteers as part of this effort. With 38 years of experience, Great Plains Food Bank is the sustainable food source for West Fargo Eats.
Increased demand for local emergency food supplies in recent years has made the need for a permanent hunger-relief program evident. The West Fargo Eats pop-up food pantry responded to community needs by operating out of the back of a refrigerated truck in the Lutheran Church of the Cross parking lot on Friday afternoons. During summer 2020, the pantry fed nearly 3,500 people with 55,000 pounds of food.
“The need was even more significant than we anticipated,” says Rev. Joel Baranko, Lead Pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross. “While we knew our efforts were helping, we believed an even greater impact could be made if we offered a permanent solution.”
There was a day when West Fargo Eats served 767 people in 90 minutes. With increasing demand, organizers knew they needed to do more. The new permanent operation is now open, located at the current Lutheran Church of the Cross property in West Fargo.
The $120,000 Gate City Bank donated has gone toward design, construction and furnishing costs for the new permanent food pantry, which opened its doors on October 25, 2021. To date, West Fargo Eats has served nearly 150,000 pounds of food to more than 13,000 people, and it’s operated entirely by volunteers.
More information about hours of operation and opportunities to volunteer can be found by visiting LCC-WF.com/West-Fargo-Eats or calling 701-532-0394.