Feeding South Dakota gearing up for new facility

Farm Forum

If nearly 9,000 square feet seems like a lot of space, try filling all but a narrow corridor with stores of food for hungry people. Then fill that narrow corridor with volunteers filling boxes of food for senior citizens on a Tuesday night.

That’s how the first Tuesday of every month goes at Feeding South Dakota on Pierre’s Airport Road, where last week was typical – a crowd of volunteers assembling at 5:30 p.m. to make sure senior citizens within reach of Pierre have 25 pounds of shelf-stable food, 14 items each month, to help supplement their diets.

“We packaged over 1,100 boxes and we did it in just under two hours,” said Russ Hofeldt, operations manager for the Pierre regional office of Feeding South Dakota. “There are 24 counties that we serve here in central South Dakota. Those 1,100 boxes will get distributed in that entire area later this month.”

That mission will get a lot easier later this year, when Feeding South Dakota is expecting to relocate to a spacious new facility just east of the Pierre airport and south of U.S. Highway 14. There will be much more space available.

“It will pretty much double,” Hofeldt said. “We’re going from just under 9,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet, including office space. We have a completion date of Dec. 1.”

Cost of the new facility is $2.1 million. The new location is about one-quarter mile southeast of Titan Machinery, just east of Pierre and a short way south from U.S. Highway 14.

Feeding South Dakota will continue to serve those same 24 counties, but the nature of the foods it can store will change thanks to much larger cooler and freezer spaces.

That will enable the Pierre office to provide more fresh foods.

Feeding South Dakota has had a center in Pierre since 2010 and from the moment it opened its doors here, has seen an uptick in demand for what it does. Hofeldt said that doesn’t mean that hunger is growing in South Dakota, but rather that needs in the region were going unmet before.

For example, he notes that of the sites that receive those 1,100 senior food boxes – under what’s technically called the Commodity Supplemental Food Program – about 25 to 30 percent of the sites have a waiting list. That means that if one senior citizen drops off a list because he or she moves into a nursing home, for example, there’s a very good chance that another senior citizen is already waiting to be served at that location.

That senior program is only one of several ways Feeding South Dakota is at work in the state. South Dakota is allocated 4,000 boxes under the senior food box program, targeted to people 60 and older who have incomes of no more than 130 percent of the poverty level.

Of those 4,000 boxes, Feeding South Dakota fills and distributes 2,878 of them – including about 1,100 to 1,200 under a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s contractor, the state Department of Education’s Office of Child and Adult Nutrition Services.

A group called Western South Dakota Community Action packages and distributes the remaining boxes that USDA allocates to South Dakota.