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COVID-19 has impacted access to food throughout the world, including in North Dakota

2020 COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts and Response to Food Access Needs in North Dakota
     Summary report with input from many Creating a Hunger Free North Dakota partners

A survey tool assembled by the U.S. Census Bureau has begun collecting social and economic status on a weekly basis from the end of April, 2020 for at least 12 weeks. The full information is at Household Pulse Survey 
An analysis of North Dakota households with children shows some surprising information about:

  • Not enough food or not of the type wanted
  • Unable to find food; children not getting enough food
  • Not confident in finding enough food to eat in the next month
  • Change in where meals are eaten
  • Where North Dakotans are finding food


While North Dakota leads the United States in the production of crops, and our rate of food insecurity is among the lowest in the U.S., there are still North Dakotans who lack of enough food every day for a healthy and active life! For the period of 2018-2020, 7.9 percent, or about 25,800 of North Dakota’s households, experienced food insecurity. Over the past 10 years, this rate has increased slightly, and remains at where it was in 2009-2011. Do we have the will to reduce food insecurity further? This information comes from the ongoing USDA study,
Household Food Security in the United States

For more insights, see a SNAP factsheet for North Dakota for fiscal year 2019

“And how are the children?”

North Dakota’s rate of childhood food insecurity ws the lowest in the nation. However, there were at least 16,360 children who experienced food insecurity in North Dakota prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.  More research from Feeding America

Does hunger look the same in all parts of North Dakota?

No, there are counties and areas with high rates of food insecurity. The counties of Benson, Cass, Grand Forks, Rolette, and Sioux have food insecurity rates at or above 10 percent. Some of the people who experience food insecurity are Native American people who were forced to re-settle to reservation lands where their access to food and land was greatly changed and/or restricted.

Want to know more? See the Map the Meal Gap research from Feeding America

What is a food desert?

Food deserts are places where people live without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. Access to healthy food is key to a healthy life, including the life of our communities.

North Dakota has lost about 20% of its grocery stores in rural areas, in towns with fewer than 2100 people. This map from partners in the ND Rural Grocer Initiative helps to show where food deserts exist. The green areas show that people live 10 or fewer miles from a grocery store. The pink areas show where people live more than 10 miles from a grocery store. Orange shows community-owned or cooperatively-owned stores, where there is often some kind of local government support such as store ownership.

People are surprised to learn that here in North Dakota, where we grow food to feed the world, a number of our counties are classified as food deserts. Agriculture is North Dakota’s leading industry, and we lead the nation in the production of several crops including flax, canola, wheat, dry beans and others. However, it is the raw ingredients that we grow, and most of these ingredients leave the state to be processed before they come back ready to cook or eat.

Want to know more? See the USDA Food Environment Atlas.

How to improve quality of life and reduce hunger?

North Dakota Compass tracks key measures and offers solutions for improving quality of life, demographics, poverty and other key measures.

Want to know more? See the North Dakota Compass website.

How do people find food?

In the last year (2017-18), the Great Plains Food Bank, through their partner network of food pantries, emergency meal programs, and other community partners, served 97,170 people, of which 36% were children and 12% were seniors.

  • 34% report choosing between paying for food and paying for medicine/medical care
  • 69% of clients couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals
  • 44% report choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities
  • 34% report making choices between paying for food and paying for transportation
  • 35% report choosing between paying for food and paying for housing
  • 75% of clients had at least one chronic disease, and 84% of those clients reported living with more than one chronic disease

What programs  and organizations help people access healthy food?

Learn more about how our coalition partners are helping to ensure access to food for North Dakotans of all ages by visiting the ND Food Helpers Organizations page.