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Great Plains Food Bank CEO Steve Sellent announces retirement following 31-year career

President Melissa Sobolik to lead organization into next chapter in hunger-relief
FARGO, N.D. – Following a stellar career spanning more than three decades, Great Plains Food Bank Chief Executive Officer Steve Sellent has announced his retirement effective June 30. Following an extensive nationwide search led by the Great Plains Food Bank Board of Directors, current president and hunger-relief veteran Melissa Sobolik has been named the organization’s next CEO. Her work will begin July 1 to help the Great Plains Food Bank take its next bold steps in the fight to end hunger.

A press conference to announce the change in leadership will take place at 10:30 a.m. today inside the Great Plains Food Bank statewide distribution center warehouse (1720 3rd Avenue North, Fargo). An open house and short program will follow at 3:30 p.m. 

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, will be in attendance to help celebrate this milestone day for hunger-relief along with food bank partner feeding program representatives, volunteers, donors and staff.

“On behalf of Feeding America, we congratulate Steve on his decades of service to the people of North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota, and welcome Melissa as CEO into our network of 200 food banks across the country,” Babineaux-Fontenot said. “The Great Plains Food Bank is providing outstanding service to the hungry people in this region and they are set up for great years ahead. This is a truly special day for hunger relief.”

Sellent leaves legacy of leadership
When Sellent was hired as director in 1990, the Great Plains Food Bank had a staff of just four individuals distributing less than a million pounds of food a year. Today, with a staff of 39 and more than 5,000 volunteers, the Great Plains Food Bank is coming off a record-setting year where it recovered more than 21 million pounds of food and distributed this nutritious product to more than 145,000 individuals and families.

Sellent led the Great Plains Food Bank through its truly transformative years. During his tenure, the Great Plains Food Bank launched numerous programs to fight childhood and senior hunger along with services designed to increase access and reduce barriers for families and individuals in need residing in rural underserved communities. Additionally, as the availability of surplus food shifted from shelf-stable to more perishable, Sellent positioned the organization to capture this highly desirable product with the integration of perishable food recovery efforts in collaboration with the retail sector in both Fargo-Moorhead and Bismarck, which recovers more than 4 million pounds of fresh food annually that otherwise would go to waste and immediately gets it to those in need. The organization has also expanded to serve more than 200 partner food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens in 118 communities throughout North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota. And most recently, highlighting years of work and a culmination to Sellent’s career, the Great Plains Food Bank opened a regional service center in Bismarck in 2020 that has significantly enhanced the organization’s ability to better serve the central and western parts of North Dakota.

“Our organization has come a long way since those early days and everything we have accomplished is due to the dedicated staff, strong board, food donors, financial supporters and volunteers that have helped make us what we are today,” Sellent said. “Reflecting back on the 31 years of service to the Great Plains Food Bank, our commitment to service and innovation that has resulted in providing food for more than 195 million meals during my time with the organization is what I am the most proud of. Thank you to everyone that has helped bring this organization to where it is today.”

Sobolik to lead next bold steps to fight hunger
Sobolik begins her tenure as CEO following more than a decade serving in hunger-relief. Officially named president in July of 2019, Sobolik previously served in multiple roles at the Great Plains Food Bank since joining the team in 2007 including director of agency and client services where she oversaw a statewide network of partner agencies and launched landmark programs for the organization such as the BackPack Program and Mobile Food Pantry.

Immediately before serving as president, Sobolik worked as director of Ending Hunger 2.0, an initiative of the Great Plains Food Bank that addresses root causes of hunger through advocacy, research and new solutions. She spent time advocating on behalf of clients to bring forward smart policy, led efforts to connect healthcare partners in hunger-relief programs, and amplified the interconnectedness of hunger and its many root causes.

“I am both thrilled and humbled to lead this incredible organization and to be trusted with its future. I can’t thank Steve enough for all he has done to prepare the Great Plains Food Bank for a bright and successful future,” Sobolik said. “As we stand on the verge of a new chapter, I look forward to what’s ahead and charting a path where no one goes hungry.” 

Sobolik becomes just the second CEO in the organization’s history.

About the Great Plains Food Bank
The Great Plains Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, which is a network of 200 food banks across the U.S. Now in its 38th year, the Great Plains Food Bank serves as North Dakota’s only food bank. Its partner network includes nearly 200 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, and other charitable feeding programs operating more than 100 communities across N.D. and Clay County, Minn. Since 1983, the Great Plains Food Bank, through its array of innovative direct service programs and partner network, have distributed more than 175 million meals to children, seniors, and families in need.

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