North Dakota native awarded for efforts to end hunger

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Minnesota college student has been honored for her efforts to end hunger in her native North Dakota, where she says around one in five children don’t have enough to eat.

Lauryn Hinckley was 9 years old and living in Bismarck when 10 years ago she created Stopping Hunger One Backpack at a Time. The sophomore at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, told the Bismarck Tribune that she started the organization after witnessing a family unable to afford groceries and returning most of the food from their grocery cart back to the shelves.

“I had never seen adversity before,” she said, adding that she was “distraught (that) people in Bismarck could not afford (food).”

Hinckley partnered with a United Way backpack program that offers $5 food bags to students in Bismarck and Mandan during the school year. Hinckley said her organization has raised around $115,000 for food in a decade. Madison Burback, a volunteer coordinator, said 1,300 students received food bags this past year.

Once Hinckley discovered peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the priciest part of the backpack, she tried to reduce the financial burden by hosting PB&J fundraisers to get sandwich supplies.

“She’s definitely been instrumental” to United Way, Marketing Manager Amanda Schwieters said.

Nonetheless, the child hunger rate in North Dakota remains far above the national average, despite the state having the highest number of billionaires per capita, Hinckley said.

In June, the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation honored Hinckley with a $5,000 scholarship and a $5,000 grant for her hunger-relief efforts. The Maryland-based foundation awards scholarships to students who use innovative methods to end hunger in the U.S.

“The hunger-ending actions of this year’s Stop Hunger Scholars illustrate how members of Gen Z will be the generation that ends hunger,” foundation Executive Director Roxanne Moore said.