Food bank holds drive at N.D. State Fair

Every year, the north end of the North Dakota State Fairgrounds plays host to a fleet of shiny new combines and agricultural tack. This year there will even be a combine in the lobby of the fair’s convention center, albeit built entirely out of canned food.

The display is part of the first can drive held at the State Fair, with proceeds all going to Great Plains Food Bank.

“We were so thrilled to be invited by the folks there,” said Marsha Paulson, the charitable organization’s director of marketing and development. “We’re the only food bank in the state of North Dakota.”

Based in Fargo, the organization collects surplus items from the food manufacturing industry, edible yet otherwise unmarketable items due either to overproduction, mislabeling, or the like. Paulson said that last year they had collected “well over 11 million pounds” of foodstuffs, which were redistributed to over 250 emergency organizations around the state and in Clay County, Minn. Over 75,000 people were fed as a result, more than a third of whom were children.

“We’re happy to play that role,” a beaming Paulson said.

The faux farm equipment and field will be made from 15,000 cans of food, largely donated by BNSF Railway and Nash Finch. It is being assembled by Georgia-based nonprofit Canstruction Inc. The group holds design competitions and builds colorful displays for food drives nationwide. They were located after an online search by the State Fair’s marketing director, Jennifer Hubrig. She explained that the upcoming drive is part of a broader campaign by the International Association of State Fairs to host food drives across the country.

The drive will culminate on July 22, which is the fair’s Pride of Dakota Day. Canned and nonperishable food items will be collected at the gates from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and fairgoers who bring at least an item along will save $1 on their admission.