Although North Dakota is the closest state in the nation to being hunger free, there are still so many people who rely on food banks for their next meal. With approximately 1 million pounds of food donated each month, Great Plains Food Bank works to help reduce hunger in many communities in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Cari Drees, Community Engagement Manager, has been working with Great Plains Food Bank for 9 years. She has a contagious spirit and true passion for people. Before working at Great Plains Food Bank, Cari worked in children’s ministry so she has an extra special place in her heart for children. Cari has a true love for her job but ultimately wishes she wasn’t needed because it would mean everyone would be hunger free.
About 36 percent of all Great Plains Food Bank recipients are children. Because of this number, the Great Plains Food Bank launched the ‘Backpack Program’, which provides meals for children from families that cannot afford them. Each weekend, children get to go home with a sack of kid friendly, easy to make food stashed in their backpack. The packs include items such as fruit, drinks and the crowd favorite, Easy Mac. Childhood hunger comes at a high price—the costs are physical, emotional and developmental. Hungry children don’t learn as well which will affect their performance as an adult.
“We believe that when a child is fed, they are equipped to learn, grow and imagine a future filled with opportunity.”
In the second year of the Backpack Program, Cari went to a local elementary school to discuss the program with students and staff at a pep rally. When going into the school, she made sure not to identify those who receive the backpacks. She delivered her presentation and asked if anyone had any questions. Very quickly, a little boy’s hand shot up in the air. He had been shaking and fidgeting in his seat with excitement through the entire presentation, so he was hard to miss. When called on, he jumped out of his seat and yelled “I GET A BACKPACK EVERY WEEK!” With a smile on her face, she started to respond but was cut off by the boy who exclaimed that he just LOVED the ravioli and sometimes even got a snack to share with his little brother! His excitement and joy was contagious and brought positive attention from his fellow classmates. This is the reason why Cari and many others get up in the morning and stay motivated to end hunger in America.
Choice Team members volunteering during the 2016 Pack-a-thon. They helped package 1,580 meals.