Great Plains Food Bank names 2021 Hunger Relief Champion Award winners

Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Nancy Johnson, Gowri Pillai, Jim Barnhardt have shown great service to hunger-relief
FARGO, N.D. – The Great Plains Food Bank has announced Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Nancy Johnson, Gowri Pillai and Jim Barnhardt as its 2021 Hunger Relief Champion Award winners. Each individual and organization have made an exceptional commitment to fight hunger inside their communities and have been longstanding champions battling food insecurity across North Dakota and Clay County, Minn.

Winners are nominated and selected based on their dedication to the Great Plains Food Bank mission, sharing their abilities and voice to end hunger while demonstrating the values of passion, service and innovation.

“Each year we honor those that are taking exceptional strides to end hunger in their communities with our Hunger Relief Champion Award,” Great Plains Food Bank CEO Melissa Sobolik said. “And this year’s winners are truly remarkable. For years these dynamic individuals and groups have given their time, talent and treasure to help us end hunger. A heartfelt thank you and congratulations to Basin Electric, Nancy Johnson, Gowri Pillai and Jim Barnhardt for being named 2021 Hunger Relief Champions.”

Basin Electric Power Cooperative
As food and financial donors, volunteers and advocates, Basin Electric Power Cooperative has been a steadfast supporter of the Great Plains Food Bank for the past 15 years. Their financial commitments have totaled more than $90,000 during that time and have been instrumental in reaching the Feed the Future capital campaign goal that helped to open the Great Plains Food Bank Bismarck Regional Service Center. They are also a leading match partner during Giving Hearts Day each year. Basin Electric’s commitments to hunger-relief extend to its employees as well as they are regular volunteers helping to pack meals for those in need, annually give through their Casual for a Cause jeans day and donate food items grown as part of their community garden project. 

Nancy Johnson
Few people have worn more hats supporting the Great Plains Food Bank than Nancy Johnson. Her years of service have included being a dedicated hunger advocate, volunteer, donor, member of the board of directors including board-chair and a member of the Feed the Future capital campaign cabinet committee. She proved a strong voice for hungry North Dakotans as a North Dakota legislator from Dickinson co-sponsoring legislation that garnered support of the legislature in 2007 that launched many Great Plains Food Bank direct service programs including its backpack program, mobile food pantry and SNAP outreach. As a member of the board of directors and later serving as board-chair, Nancy was instrumental in helping move the Great Plains Food Bank to its own 501c3 organization. She also generously gives financially with having given enough to provide more than 500,000 meals for those in need.  

Gowri Pillai
When she was just four years old, Gowri Pillai witnessed homelessness firsthand and felt there was something she could do to help. With her birthday coming up, she decided that instead of presents she would ask for food donations to give to the Great Plains Food Bank. The idea stuck and each year around her birthday, Gowri, along with her family, friends, classmates and members of the community, come together to support hunger-relief. In recent years she also began collecting monetary donations along with food. She just completed her ninth year and in total has collected 5,227 pounds of food and $4,387 for the Great Plains Food Bank. That is enough to provide 17,517 meals for those in need.

Jim Barnhardt
One of the strongest advocates for hunger-relief in the Bismarck-Mandan community, Jim Barnhardt has dedicated much of his life to helping feed those in need. His work has included serving as chair of The Banquet, which is a partner of the Great Plains Food Bank offering hot meals to clients multiple days a week. In 2019, Jim and his family hosted the first Adopt-A-Block food distribution at Jeannette Myhre Elementary School and began serving those in need in the Bismarck area twice per week. But he wasn’t done there. As COVID-19 swept the country and the need for food assistance increased dramatically, Jim expanded Adopt-A-Block distributions to five days a week at five separate locations to ensure clients had enough access to food. He was instrumental in working with the River of Hope Food Pantry to also offer Saturday distributions along with assisting the Great Plains Food Bank Food Rescue Program when needed.

About the Hunger Relief Champions award
Launched in 2008, the Hunger Relief Champions award recognizes individuals, businesses, churches or organizations for their extraordinary contributions and commitment to end hunger. These honorees are acknowledged for their longtime partnerships with the Great Plains Food Bank, their creativity and organization-wide commitment, for being innovators and solution focused, and for extending an invitation to employees, customers, and other like-minded community entities to join them in their work to alleviate hunger. A complete list of past winners can be found HERE.

About the Great Plains Food Bank
Now in its 39th 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 200 million meals to children, seniors, and families in need. The Great Plains Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network, and was named the Not-for-Profit of the Year in 2018 by the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

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About the Great Plains Food Bank
Opening in March of 1983, the Great Plains Food Bank is currently celebrating its 40th year as an organization. Serving as North Dakota’s only food bank, the Great Plains Food Bank partners with nearly 200 food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and other charitable feeding programs operating in 100 communities across N.D. and Clay County, Minn. Through its array of innovative direct service programs and partner network, the Great Plains Food Bank has distributed more than 200 million meals to children, seniors, and families in need since 1983. The Great Plains Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network, and was named the Not-for-Profit of the Year in 2018 by the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

FOLLOW US
Website: www.greatplainsfoodbank.org
Twitter: @NDFoodBank
Facebook: facebook.com/GreatPlainsFoodBank
Instagram: greatplainsfoodbank

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Great Plains Food Bank
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