Montana Food Banks Enter Second Thanksgiving Pandemic

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Like many organizations in Montana, the state’s largest food bank is struggling with labor shortages, making it difficult to get an accurate tally of people using its services, said Sheryle Shandy, CEO of Billings Food Bank. For the record, however, she said she noticed that the organization’s customer base has changed since the start of the pandemic.

Before COVID-19, Billings Food Bank customers were roughly evenly split into three age groups: 18 and under, between 19 and 59, and 60 and over. Since the start of the pandemic, the food bank has served more people in this middle category, Shandy said.

“We’re seeing a lot more of the middle group – older people but who have families and haven’t had to ask for help. [before], “she said.” It’s heartbreaking to see people who raised their children, supported each other, sent their children to college, then [the pandemic] hit.”

Shandy said the Billings Food Bank has tried to develop programs to meet people where they are, both physically and metaphorically. He developed programs like Farm to Trunk, which offered a safe delivery model for COVID that reduced barriers that may have prevented some people from seeking pantry support. As part of this model, the food bank distributed roughly 100 pounds of pantry staples to tens of thousands of families in Billings and outlying areas during 2020. It also cut off food from growing. squander amidst supply chain disruptions that have led to an overabundance of items such as potatoes and milk.

These are achievements she’s proud of, and something the pantry would consider revisiting in the future, she said.

“It was amazing. We pushed so much food,” she said. “We actually would love to do [Food to Trunk] again. … It’s so effective.

As the second Thanksgiving pandemic approaches, the Billings Food Bank continues to offer some vacation programs differently from a normal year. However, Shandy said many of the nonprofit organization’s most popular events and programs are still going strong. These include a day of turkey and fundraising and a Thanksgiving meal that draws on the generosity and expertise of local chefs. Both have more than 20 years of history.

Last week, Billings Food Bank teamed up with local broadcast station Q2 on “Turkey Tuesday,” which grossed over $ 80,000 in cash donations and some 4,000 turkeys. Most of the turkeys donated were placed in food boxes for Billings Food Bank customers. On Thanksgiving Day, Billings Food Bank volunteers plan to deliver hot meals to people’s homes and offer a pickup option at the organization’s location in downtown Billings. (As was the case on the previous Thanksgiving, they will not have a restore option due to COVID-19 precautions.)

“[Community support] allowed us to meet this demand – and do more than follow it, [develop] new ways of delivering programming.

Executive Director of the Livingston Food Resource Center Michael McCormick

While registration is closed for meals delivered, Shandy encouraged people to call the food bank at (406) 259-2856 if they would like to have a hot Thanksgiving meal or to learn more about donation or donation possibilities. volunteering. Until the end of the month, Town Pump will match up to $ 1 million in cash donations to the Billings Food Bank, she added.

“We are in a generous state,” Shandy said. “We may not always have time to recognize the support [we receive], but we know you’re there, and we’re all in the same boat.

A “MORE EFFICIENT, MORE EFFICIENT ORGANIZATION”

In a small pantry about 120 miles west of Billings, there’s no doubt the pandemic has caused demand to increase, but Livingston Food Resource Center executive director Michael McCormick said he was proud of the way the centre’s staff and volunteers adapted to meet these needs. As a result, he said, the CRLF has been able to expand its reach and rethink the delivery of its programs.

“The whole experience of the pandemic has made us a more effective and efficient organization,” he said. “If there’s any good news in all of this, that’s it.”

These adaptations include a pop-up pantry that LFRC took to Clyde Park in a refrigerated tanker, an online children’s cooking camp which has enabled the LFRC to offer cooking and nutrition classes to children as far away as Cooke City, and to expand its supper club program. Prior to COVID-19, the Supper Club Program, a lunch delivery service, was offered almost exclusively to low-income seniors in the area. It has since been expanded to include people recovering from a recent hospital stay and people quarantined due to infection or exposure to COVID.

McCormick said that while he is grateful that the needs of the community are not as high as they used to be (at the start of the pandemic, food delivery from CRLF increased by 300% with a particularly strong increase in deliveries to families with young children), he is happy for these adaptations, and he said he anticipates that the resulting staff and facility adjustments will allow the LFRC to continue serving more of the county once the pandemic over.

Last week, the LFRC handed out around 350 Thanksgiving meal kits, which is roughly on par with last year and up from 2019 levels, he said. These food bags were complete with a sauce made from locally sourced organic ingredients and a cranberry sauce made from organic products. Washington Cranberries.

McCormick said this holiday season he was grateful for “community support, in all capital letters, about 24 points of font and with lots of exclamation marks after”.

“This is really the key,” he said. “This is what has enabled us to meet this demand – and to do more than follow it, to [develop] new ways of delivering programming.


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