Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Food bank launches 'End Rows to End Hunger'

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 11/21/2012 1:22 PM

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WINONA, Minn. — Farmers in southeastern Minnesota are asked to share their harvest bounty with the hungry through "End Rows to End Hunger."

The grain donation program is just getting started in the region, said Jack Karnick, Channel One regional representative. It will continue in perpetuity.

Mailings went out to 5,000 farmers in the 13 counties served by the Channel One Regional Food Bank last week, Karnick said. The mailing contains information on the grain donation program, End Rows to End Hunger, an introduction letter, brochure and pledge cards.

"Domestic hunger is a huge problem," he said. Channel One Regional Food Bank distributed more than 8 million pounds of food to 85,000 people in need last year.

Karnick said the grain donation program will allow the food bank to provide more services to the 200 plus agencies throughout the region who serve the hungry. Regional food shelves located throughout the 13 counties purchase food through Channel One Regional Food Bank.

The 13 counties served by the regional food bank are Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, Fillmore, Houston, Winona, Olmsted, Dodge, Steele, Waseca, Rice, Goodhue and Wabasha.

Aside from farmers, the grain elevators are vital to making this grain donation program work.

"Obviously, this program can't succeed without the cooperation and help of the elevators," Karnick said.

He wanted to personally connect with all the elevators in the region, but the early harvest prevented him from achieving this goal. Instead, he met with leaders of several of the larger cooperatives in the region and all said they would help Channel One and facilitate the program.

The majority of grain elevators in the region should have received an introduction letter and a packet of materials should a customer want to make a donation to the food bank.

"The gracious cooperation and help from grain elevators is crucial to the success of the program," Karnick said. "We can't thank the elevator managers and staff enough."

Donating grain is really an age-old donation process, he said. For generations, non-profits have went to farmers and asked them to give their end rows to their cause.

Any amount of grain donated in greatly appreciated, Karnick said. A dollar donated to Channel One can help provide up to five meals to a person in need. The donation of 100 bushels of grain at today's price could provide more than 3,000 meals. The entire donation will be used to feed the hungry.

There is a tax advantage for farmers for donating grain rather than donating cash, said Bruce Nickel, a certified public accountant with United FCS.

When a farmer contributes grain to a church or nonprofit 501c3, it is not recognized as income and the farmer saves self-employment and income tax on that commodity. If cash is given in lieu of grain, the farmer must still pay income tax and self-employment tax on the proceeds of the grain. Further, the farmer may or may not be able to itemize and claim the charitable deduction.

The best scenario is to give the commodity, Nickel said, because that way the deduction is assured.

Channel One has standing sell orders, Karnick said, so the grain will be sold the day it is delivered.

"I can't thank the donor enough," he said.

Channel One Regional Food Bank is one of six food banks in Minnesota and one of about 200 in the nation. Regional food banks are the warehouses between Feeding America and local food shelves.