A new kind of food bank is on its way to the Spirit Lake Reservation.

A new kind of food bank is on its way to the Spirit Lake Reservation.

What began as a class project is now making the transition from vision to reality. Founder and coordinator Patrick Schmid, a student in the social work program at Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC) in Fort Totten, has partnered with Great Plains Food Bank to create a non-profit food bank.

Schmid says, “The winter holidays can be hard for a lot of people regardless of race, class or family size. It is the goal of this project to distribute food to the people of the reservation and area communities, no questions asked. You don’t need to be tribally enrolled, live on the reservation or have a referral. No one will be denied. All in need of food assistance are welcome.”

The Great Plains Food Truck will arrive on Friday, Jan. 11* from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the west parking lot at Cankdeska Cikana Community College, 214 1st Ave, Fort Totten, N.D. There will be signs to direct traffic.

Starting Small, Thinking Big: Schmid currently lives in Devils Lake, and is an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Tribe. His adoptive parents, Mike and Danette Schmid, live south of New Rockford near Barlow, and continue to have significant influence in his life. When Schmid returned to the area nine years ago, he connected with his birth families, Yankton and LaRoque. His uncle, Roger Yankton, inspired Schmid to envision what the reservation could be when people care.

Schmid says, “You’ve really got to really know a place to care about its future. The reservation means a lot to me. Geographically, yes— it has some of the most beautiful landscape that I’ve ever seen. But also socially, these are good people who live here.” The idea for developing a food bank began as part of a class project, but was fueled by the frustration Schmid felt in knowing the limitations people have to overcome just to fill their pantry.

Schmid says, “Food is a great starting point for change. It is what brings us together as people, and it is what bridges our communities.” As part of the social work program as CCCC, Schmid participated in an internship with the Hope Center in Devils Lake, whose mission is to help “meet the nutritional, emotional and spiritual needs of others. Through regular food distributions and special programs, we are meeting needs and impacting hunger in the Lake Region.” Schmid drew inspiration from the Hope Center model and saw the opportunity for a more inclusive food bank program to address the disparities for the people on and surrounding the reservation.

Galynn Lindemann, instructor for the social work program at CCCC, says projects such as this promote a kind of healing from the inside out that not only changes perceptions and keeps bridges open, but ultimately makes way for a future that is inclusive to cultural and economic diversity. The Spirit Lake Reservation and surrounding area is home to enrolled members, intertribal residents as well as non-natives and new American immigrants. What a better place to put the Dakota phrase, “mitákuye oyás'in” meaning “all my relations” into practice.

Often people are hesitant to participate in a food distribution program, assuming they will be judged or turned away, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Many clients who benefit from the Great Plains Food Bank are what can be called the working poor— those who make too much to qualify for supplement nutrition benefits, yet don’t earn enough to make ends meet.

Building Connections: As Schmid’s vision for a food bank began to take shape, he contacted the Great Plains Food Bank and then patiently waited for a reply. When he received a supportive email stating they would send a truck filled with food donations, Schmid was overjoyed.“I just kept reading that email over and over until I realized this was really happening,” he recalls. Volunteerism and community involvement were two of the special ingredients that contribute to Schmid’s success. In fact, not long ago he couldn’t have envisioned his name being in a newspaper for any good reason. His involvement with the Hope Center, First Nations Women’s Alliance and Sweetwater Elementary as a special needs paraprofessional has opened the doors for many good things.

Now Schmid is building connections with small businesses like Lake of the Woods Pie Company, who is interested in making food donations, and Recovery Appliance Repair, who is discussing refrigeration options at the food bank’s yet-to-be-determined location. Larger businesses like Walmart and area grocers have expressed interest in providing donations as well. There is plenty more work ahead for the food bank’s five member board of directors. “So far, we have focused on building a solid foundation based upon honesty, inclusiveness and volunteerism.” Schmid explains. The next tasks ahead include securing a permanent location, hiring a director and working with community elders to establish a name.

*Originally it was to begin on Dec. 27, however, weather caused this to be moved to Jan. 11.

This article was reprinted with permission from the New Rockford Transcript. For the entire article contact them, or see the print edition of the Devils Lake Journal for today, Jan. 3, 2019.