What started as an office meeting between USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Rev. David Zellmer, Bishop of the SD Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, regarding food ministry and feeding the hungry has flourished into meetings of constituents across the state of South Dakota. Over 21 representatives from faith based organizations already addressing hunger issues in addition to state agencies, South Dakota Department of Agriculture, South Dakota State University and USDA Rural Development staff met to discuss the next steps towards a possible state-wide food council this week.
Bishop Zellmer led the group in discussion regarding what is already working well in the State such as good nutrition education programs already in place through Extension and in schools. Stream lined services and processes through the State Department of Social Services and community gardens in place to offer fresh produce without stigma.
“We live in a State that could get this done,” stated Bishop Zellmer, “We need to step back and get a larger look at our capabilities, fill the holes and expand what is already working.” The group discussed what could be improved in the State such as increased funding to cover the cost of food, increased communication to the people that needs the services the most and coordination of agencies and services.
With a goal focused on making healthy food more accessible to everyone in South Dakota by 2015, the group discussed ways of increasing awareness of the need and scope of the hungry in the State and challenged all groups and agencies to increase their visibility and communication. A future meeting was scheduled to start a clearing house of resources already available, start work on a needs assessment and consider the creation of a food council.