Reduce Hunger and Homelessness

BOLD Goal 1: Reduce Hunger and Homelessness

Why We Invest

We are strengthening our community partnerships to provide individuals and families access to stable housing and food. This ultimately leads to hunger and homelessness being rare, brief and nonrecurring.

The Issue

Of those experiencing hunger in our community, 37% are children.

An estimated 1,075 individuals are experiencing homelessness on any given night in our community.

The Action

Working with our community partners we increased access to food, while addressing the root causes of hunger through the Cass Clay Hunger Coalition.

We’ve worked to increase the number of individuals who are able to attain stable housing by 37% in the past four years.



Nationally, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to enough food to live an active and healthy life.”* It can also be defined in this way: the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. From the most recent data available from Feeding America, in 2016, 9.1% of children under 18 year old in Cass County and 12.7% in Clay County are considered food insecure. However, only 8.9% of the total population in Cass County and 9.5% in Clay County are considered food insecure. ** This shows that children are disproportionally effected by hunger.

The Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program that helps millions of low-income Americans put food on the table. Across the US there are over 9.5 million families with children on SNAP. It is the largest program working to fight hunger and provide a path towards self-sufficiency in the United States.***  Locally, calculations (2017) place SNAP participation rates around 51% for Cass County, ND, and 71% for Clay County, MN.**** An emphasis on outreach to enroll eligible families can assist a family’s ability to move toward self-sufficiency; when paired with other economic assistance programs and supportive case management and nonprofit partners, families can be lifted out of poverty. 

Currently, Great Plains Food Bank has 52 partners in Cass and Clay Counties, and 83% of food and grocery product distributed by partner food pantries was supplied by the Great Plains Food Bank. *****

From the 2018 Hunger in ND study and survey conducted by the Great Plains Food Bank, when families were asked what were the root causes of them being food insecure, their top responses were: *****

• Lack of affordable housing
• Poverty
• Lack of transportation

Locally, United Way is a member of the Cass/Clay Hunger Coalition. The Cass/Clay Hunger Coalition has set their vision as: We see a healthy community built on collaborative solutions that supports equitable access to food while addressing the root causes of hunger.  Through utilizing the Results Based Accountability (RBA) model, Cass/Clay Hunger Coalition has set the following as areas of focus and strategies:

• Food insecurity – Everyone in Cass/Clay is and will continue to be food secure.
     o Expanded screening for root causes of hunger
• Food access – Everyone has equitable access to food that meets their needs.
     o Supporting non-traditional food access
• Health & hunger – Our community actively supports practices and policies that recognize hunger as a health crisis
     o Analyzing current policies and practices
• Awareness & education – Everyone is knowledgeable about hunger as an issue in our community year-round
     o Periodic coordinated outreach events

We need to look at our community’s system and work to build more effective collaboration to alleviate hunger that many face every day. Building a better system to address food insecurity starts with having access to relevant data, that provides insight into demographics of clients served and why they are seeking to access food pantries and/or charitable feeding programs. 

Through our partnership with the Great Plains Food Bank and the work of the Cass/Clay Hunger Coalition, it is clear we need to focus on collaborative system-wide solutions.  To end hunger in our community, we need to lift people out of poverty.


From the State of Homelessness Report, it is estimated on any given night there are 1,075 individuals experiencing homelessness in the Fargo-Moorhead Metro. Almost two-thirds (63%) of individuals experiencing homelessness who were surveyed had at least a high school diploma or some level of college education. Roughly a third (30%) of respondents were currently employed, and on average they reported working 24 hours per week. 

The individuals who were not employed identified physical and mental health, transportation, child care, and criminal background as the common barriers to employment.  Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) stated their typical mode of transportation was to walk, wheelchair, or bike.

Individuals experiencing homelessness in our community face many barriers to sustainability or the ability to be lead a stable life, specifically when it comes to gaining and maintaining livable-wage employment and safe, stable housing.

When asked about what would help them to maintain stable housing, survey respondents identified employment, affordable housing, and transportation as the top three.******

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, families experiencing homelessness are similar to other families that are also poor, but who have a home to live in. Both may struggle with incomes that are far less than they need to pay for housing. In fact, it is often some jolt to this precarious situation – a lost job or work hours, conflict with family members they are staying with, an unanticipated bill or violence within the home – that leads families to seek help from homeless service programs.  Homeless families are usually headed by a single woman with limited education, are typically young, and have young children. Homelessness can have a tremendous impact on children – their education, health, sense of safety, and overall development. Children experiencing homelessness have been shown to:

• Have higher levels of emotional and behavioral problems
• Have increased risk of serious health problems
• Be more likely to experience separations from their families
• Experience more school mobility, repeat a grade, be expelled or drop out of school, and have lower academic performance

Housing is the solution to homelessness for low-income families. Most families would benefit from assistance to help them rapidly reconnect to permanent housing. Rapid re-housing provides help with housing search, financial assistance, and case management services to help families quickly transition out of shelter and back into housing of their own. A small subset of families may require more intensive or long-term support, through the provision of transitional housing, permanent rental assistance, or permanent supportive housing to escape homelessness. Families can also benefit from connection to other supports designed to strengthen and improve their lives, such as child care, employment assistance, early childhood services, income support, or mental health counseling. *******



According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, youth homelessness is often rooted in family conflict. Other contributing factors include economic circumstances like poverty and housing insecurity, racial disparities, and mental health and substance use disorders. Young people who have had involvement with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are also more likely to become homeless.  Many homeless youth and young adults have experienced significant trauma before and after becoming homeless and are particularly vulnerable, including victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation.

Youth and young adults need stable housing, supportive connections to caring adults, and access to mainstream services that will place them on a path to long-term success. Reunifying youth with family or a support system, when safe and appropriate, should be at the core of any approach. Young adults may also require broader education and employment supports and may need more low-barrier short- and long-term housing options, including rapid re-housing.  Available permanent supportive housing programs should be prioritized only to the most vulnerable youth who have demonstrated a need for the most intensive interventions to successfully exit homelessness. ********

* USDA, Food Security in the U.S.

** Map the Meal Gap 2011-2016: Food Insecurity and Child Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level

*** USDA, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

**** Cass/Clay Hunger Coalition Data, Estimate of SNAP Participation by Eligible Individuals

*****Hunger in North Dakota 2018. Great Plains Food Bank

******State of Homelessness in Fargo-Moorhead Metro Area

******* National Alliance to End Homelessness: Families and Children

******** National Alliance to End Homelessness: Youth and Young Adults

State of Homelessness in Fargo-Moorhead Metro Area: A report of the FM Coalition to End Homelessness in collaboration with United Way of Cass-Clay.
View the 2020 Executive Summary

We are not currently accepting proposals for this community goal.  More details about the next grant cycle will be published in fall 2022.

For additional information on our strategy, please see the previous Notice of Funding Available.