Goehring sets goals for 2014 Hunger Free ND Garden Project

FARGO – Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is asking gardeners across the state to plant an extra row of fruits and vegetables this year to help meet the needs of hungry North Dakotans.

“One in 10 of our fellow citizens seeks food assistance from charitable feeding programs every year,” Goehring said. “We are asking individuals and groups to join in the 2014 Hunger Free ND Garden Project to grow and distribute at least a million servings of fresh produce to North Dakota food pantries, shelters and charitable feeding organizations.”

“Sadly in a state that produces so much food, hunger is very much a problem here – our largest food bank has seen an almost 12 percent increase in the need for services in the past year,” Goehring said. “Sadder yet, almost 40 percent of those needing help are children.”

Also addressing the news conference was Steve Sellent, program director of the Great Plains Food Bank, and Esther McGinnis, director of North Dakota State University's Master Gardener Program.

“The Hunger Free North Dakota Garden project has not only significantly increased the amount of food we have been able to provide for those in our state struggling with hunger, but it has also played a key role in our efforts to provide more fresh and healthy food,” said Sellent. “We regularly hear how much having access to these fruits and vegetables is appreciated by the more than 80,000 children, families and seniors who look to us for nutrition assistance.

“The North Dakota Master Gardener Program and the Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Project have complementary missions,” said McGinnis, “Master Gardeners are committed to using their horticultural skills to benefit communities across North Dakota and are proud to partner with the Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Project to combat food insecurity.”

Last year, the Hunger Free ND Garden Project, gardeners grew and delivered more than 181,000 pounds of fresh produce to food distribution agencies.

Goehring said information about the Hunger Free ND Garden Project, including drop-off points for garden-grown produce will be available on the North Dakota Department of Agriculture website, www.nd.gov/ndda.

The Hunger Free ND Garden Project was started in 2010 through the local foods initiative of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture (NDDA) in partnership with the Great Plains Food Bank. The statewide project encourages home gardeners and commercial growers to plant extra produce each year for donation to charitable organizations across the state.

Other partners in the project include the NDSU Extension Service, Dakota College at Bottineau ~ Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture, Creating a Hunger Free ND Coalition, Healthy North Dakota and Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society.