BEMIDJI -- The North Country Food Bank is in the process of relocating from Crookston to a larger facility in East Grand Forks.

To ensure the nonprofit is able to fully remodel its new building, the organization is going to each of the 21 counties it serves for financial assistance.

On Tuesday, the effort brought the organization's Executive Director Susie Novak to the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners meeting. There, she described the background of the work and requested a contribution of $50,000.

"We're asking counties for help based on how much work we do in that county," Novak told the Pioneer. "We're trying to be fair and ask by how much food we bring in. Beltrami is one of the larger ones. We do a lot of work there.

Beginning in 1983, the food bank distributes food to more than 230 charitable organizations annually. According to Novak, their facility in Crookston was no longer sufficient, though.

"We have been working on this for a couple of years," Novak said. "Our organization has grown tremendously over the last decade, so we've always known we'd need a larger facility."

Novak said the organization also has a contractual relationship with Feeding America and is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Those entities, Novak said, found the Crookston building to be unsuitable because of a lack of space, adding another reason to go for a different facility.

"We started looking, but weren't able to find a location in the Crookston area that was large enough, since we needed at least a 30,000 square-foot building," Novak said. "We decided we'd have to build, even though we didn't want to because it would be more expensive. It was estimated to cost more than $6 million."

However, before the project moved forward, the organization became aware of a 35,000 square-foot building going on the market in East Grand Forks.

"The project is in progress now and we plan to be fully operational by the end of January 2020," Novak said. "With acquiring the building, we have to add a drive-in freezer, cooler and loading dock, plus we have to tear down some walls. It's nearly $3 million."

Novak said the organization has about $1 million to go to reach its goal.

"We're leaving no stone unturned. We're seeking any and all grants that are available," Novak said. "We've never asked the counties we served for everything, we've never received money from them. But we're asking because this is an important thing for us in our work but also for every county we serve."

No action was taken by the board on the food bank's request, but commissioners will revisit the matter at a later meeting.

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