According to the nonprofit food bank network Feeding America, 51,380 North Dakota residents are struggling with hunger. That equates to 1 in 15 people, and 9.1% of children in the state. Volunteers are doing what they can to help the less fortunate in the Killdeer community.

Fighting hunger in Killdeer

Girl Scout Troop 85112, which is based in Killdeer, does multiple service projects each year to help the community such as gift bags for the cancer center in Bismarck and cookies for the fire department. Another one includes a trip to the grocery store to buy thanksgiving meals for hungry families. Scouts give the food to social workers who take it to those families to have in time for a Thanksgiving meal.

“That includes everything they need for an entire meal for the family. Social services tells us how many people are in the family, then we provide the meal for them,” Troop Leader Kelli Schollmeyer said, adding that the girls also help keep the food pantry stocked and organized.

Farra Meeker, who runs the Killdeer Food Pantry, said it was started in May of 2019. Unlike some other pantries, this is open to anyone who needs help and there’s no application process. She also likes that this is inside.

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“We were able to have it inside the entryway of what is now Bravera Bank (formerly the American Bank Center),” Meeker said, adding that the bank’s manager donated the cabinet where the food is kept. “So donations can be put in there that won’t be damaged or won’t explode if it’s in the wintertime. Some of these other ones, like in Dickinson, are completely outdoors. That limits what they can put in there.”

The Killdeer Food Pantry after it was recently stocked on Nov. 2. (Contributed photo / Farra Meeker)
The Killdeer Food Pantry after it was recently stocked on Nov. 2. (Contributed photo / Farra Meeker)

The pantry is kept alive by the generosity of the Killdeer community, so Meeker encourages people to drop off non-perishable food when they have time. They do food drives periodically, their most recent at the Killdeer PTA’s Halloween Carnival. They also held a raffle to drive donations and gave away three $100 gift cards.

Currently the pantry is doing what they call a reverse Advent Calendar, which contains a list of suggested donations for each of the six four-day periods.

“We’re encouraging people to take a box and collect items between Dec. 1-24, then turn that box of items into the Bravera Bank,” she said.

Battling the cold with coats

In addition to the "take what you need and donate what you can" style food pantry, this office building has a clothing donation program that operates in a similar fashion. Nodak Insurance Agent April Dutchuk said the coat rack was spurred by a hat and mitten drive being done for the school about three years ago. She had a surplus of coats at her home with nowhere in Killdeer or even the entire county to drop off clothing donations. Dutchuk said a member of the community donated a coat rack, and that the other businesses liked the idea of putting it in the hallway common area.

The coat rack in the Killdeer Bravera Bank building is a great place for residents to donate unwanted sweaters, coats, gloves and other cold weather apparel. (Contributed photo / April Dutchuk)
The coat rack in the Killdeer Bravera Bank building is a great place for residents to donate unwanted sweaters, coats, gloves and other cold weather apparel. (Contributed photo / April Dutchuk)

“It’s constantly rotating, there’s always coats coming and going,” she said. “I don’t keep track of who’s taking coats or leaving them. That’s the whole point, you can donate if you can and if you need something, take it.”

Dutchuk said a few years ago she was happy to see school children in need sufficiently outfitted with winter apparel, but then began thinking about everyone else.

“I decided to take it a different direction,” she said. “The students are taken care of, but what about those individuals who have come to North Dakota and discovered that they don’t have the gear they need, and can’t afford to buy winter coats? Many times it’s unexpected, you get cold much faster here."