North Country Food Bank smashes walls at new location in East Grand Forks

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Susie Novak Boelter, executive director for North Country Food Bank, gives a speech at the ground breaking ceremony. (Adam Kurtz/ Grand Forks Herald

North Country Food Bank broke ground -- or smashed walls -- at it’s new location at 1011 11th Ave. N.E. in East Grand Forks on Thursday, Sept. 5.

The ceremony was attended by more than 50 people, including East Grand Forks Mayor Steve Gander, who, wearing a hard hat, took a ceremonial swing at the wall with a sledgehammer. Renovation is set to begin Monday.

The food bank is currently located in Crookston, but is making the move to East Grand Forks later this year, with the goal of being up and running by the end of the year. The move is for a two-fold reason. One, it needs more space to better carry out its mission and more effectively serve the 220 charitable agencies it partners with across northwest and west central Minnesota, as well as Grand Forks.

The other reason is that North Country’s current space is deemed non-compliant due to space issues, by Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the nation. North Country, as a member of that group, must adhere to its contractual obligations, including food safety and space requirements.

“We know that getting into a larger facility is the right thing to do in order to provide more food to those who are struggling with hunger,” Susie Novak Boelter, executive director of the North Country Food Bank, told the Herald.


The original plan was to construct a new building for the food bank in Crookston, but the location in East Grand Forks became available. The structure was built in 1997 and was used as a temporary location for Sacred Heart school after the flood of 1997.

“I think for us it’s a double-edged sword,” said Novak Boelter. “We’re excited about this building and the opportunity it gives us, in that it’s going to cost so much less, but we never intended to leave Crookston.”

North Country operates a food pantry at its location in Crookston, an operation that it will have to close down.

“We’re working with Crookston to find groups that are willing to take it over and operate the food shelf in Crookston,” she said.

Buying the EGF location is more cost effective for the organization. Proposed plans to build a 30,000-square-foot location in Crookston were estimated to cost more than $6 million. The total cost of buying the existing location, including remodeling and purchasing new equipment, would run about $2.5 million, offering the food bank a substantial savings. An added bonus for North Country is that the former temporary school offers about 5,000 more square feet than the original plan to build a new facility.

The new location, near the Interstate 29 corridor and Highway 2, should also help the food bank with reducing transportation costs, as it sources, then ships out donated food to its partner facilities.

Even with the substantial savings of buying the East Grand Forks location, money is still an issue for the nonprofit organization.

“Even though we’ve made tremendous strides, we still need to raise close to $1 million to reach the total campaign goal,” Novak Boelter told the Herald. “To close that gap, we need contributions of all sizes, and we especially need partners who can help make a significant dent in our gap and demonstrate to other donors that this is a project worth supporting.”


North Country Food Bank acts as a “wholesaler” for its partner agencies by sourcing food locally, regionally and nationally. According to Novak Boelter, it then distributes the food to its partner agencies, most of whom get between 70% to 90% of their food from North Country.

Fifty percent of that food is used to feed children, with 20% feeding seniors. The remaining 30% is made up of the working poor, according to Novak Boelter. The food bank distributes more than 8 million pounds of food annually to its partners, which yields more than 6.7 million meals.

People wishing to volunteer or donate can contact North Country Food Bank at 218-281-7356, or reach the group online at

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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