Backpacks Reducing Rural Hunger with Full Circle Ag

Small communities bolstered by local ag retailers & Land O'Lakes Foundation matches

It’s no surprise to many that our retail- and farmer-owners are involved in their communities. It’s what makes the Land O’Lakes, Inc. system special: a community of diverse-thinking doers and dreamers working to make a greater impact and feed human progress. One of the ways that we can help our direct members and member cooperatives make their impact go even further is through matches with the Land O’Lakes Foundation.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to do the Member Match with Land O’Lakes -- it doubles our money,” says Tammy Satrang, CFO and credit manager of Full Circle Ag, a member cooperative in South Dakota. “It’s been really helpful in our communities.”

Many of these initiatives, across the country, in hundreds of rural communities, support hunger. After all, one in six people in America is still food insecure today, according to Feeding America. One of the growing ways for community organizations to support hunger relief is through a backpack program that provides weekend meals to kids in need.

Full Circle Ag has gone above and beyond by first seeing the need for a program and then creating one from scratch in their communities.

A hunger gap to fill

Tammy helps organize the cooperative’s philanthropic outreach through coordinated donations and community involvement. The cooperative serves five different rural communities across North Dakota and South Dakota.

“We started a backpack program in Britton, South Dakota, back in 2013 -- one of the other communities we serve had an existing program,” says Tammy. “We toured their facility and learned how they ran their program.”

Full Circle Ag wanted to build out the program and first brought it into the South Dakota towns of Britton and Langford. They formed a community committee – with people from the food pantry, the school and a representative from Full Circle Ag.

“Hunger is one of our highest priorities because of the need in these small communities,” says Tammy. Full Circle Ag has been getting matching funds for the program every year, which can make a big difference.

“I talked to a teacher at one of our schools, and she said: ‘you can tell which students come to school hungry.’ They’re fidgeting, waiting for lunch, and they don’t come to school ready to learn,” says Tammy. “We’ve always been involved with food pantry donations, so I asked them ‘well what do you think about a weekend backpack program?’”

Building backpacks takes a community

The cost of a full weekend backpack is about $7 -- that includes two breakfast items, two juices, six snacks and two lunch items. It’s intended for kids who may not have access to steady meals over the weekend. Which will then affect their attendance or concentration come Monday morning.

Parents of the children fill out the applications. During recess on Fridays, the school administers and distributes the food into the kids’ backpacks. It’s all confidential.

Right now, Full Circle Ag donates to five community food pantries in North and South Dakota, and three backpack programs. The Britton program is now run entirely by the community committee, but Full Circle Ag always contributes -- and ensures that member matches make their dollars go even further.

This program has made the community of Britton come together -- from the food pantry to the school to everyday citizens.

“We’ve also set up a way to get community donations through the grocery store,” says Tammy. “In the store, there’s a sign showing the food item of the month, so it can be picked up, paid for and donated at the checkout line.”

A single idea, great impact

“Supporting the backpack program has been one of the most worthwhile donations we make in our community,” says Tammy. “There’s information out there -- talk to someone, talk to the schools, you’ll be surprised how many other people will want to get involved. It doesn’t take a lot to get it going, and you can start supporting it financially and watch it run. It’s very helpful to those kids. We’ve seen the positive impact it’s had on kids in need in our area.

“We are very grateful to Land O’ Lakes for the benefits our local communities receive through the matching funds program, working together we make a huge difference”.

And of course, member matches are available not only for backpack programs, but for all donations to an eligible 501(c)3 -- just make sure to get them in before Nov. 30.

Source: Story by Land O'Lakes, Inc.