By Martin Kidston
The good news is the Missoula Food Bank has met its annual goal for donated food – enough to stuff its warehouse and stock the shelves for roughly two months.
The downside, however, places the organization short of reaching its monetary goal – money that keeps food on the shelf for much of the year.
“We’re ahead of our goal for food and that’s fantastic,” Aaron Brock, executive director of the Missoula Food Bank, said Wednesday morning. “Our warehouse has swelled up to as full as it ever gets and that will keep food on our shelf for a month or two.”
While 60,000 pounds of food sounds like a lot – and is a lot, Brock said – the Missoula Food Bank distributes roughly 1.5 million pounds of food each year.
Much of that is bought by the Food Bank using charitable contributions it collects from area donors. As it stands, Brock said, the organization is roughly $70,000 short of its annual financial goal.
“Predictably, we buy about 90 percent of the food on our shelves each year, and we do that with charitable donations,” Brock said. “This holiday drive is a critical time for us to make sure we’re financially set up for success in the coming year. Our community is so incredibly generous, and yet here we are, asking folks to please consider a donation.”
The need for food assistance continues to grow each year. In 2015, the organization provided food assistance to roughly 18,500 separate individuals. This year, it has provided assistance to more than 19,000 people.
Over the course of a year, Brock estimates, the Food Bank serves one in six Missoula County residents, with many more aided by other programs that serve children in schools and seniors in their homes.
The programs include the EmPower Pack program, which sends food home with children facing chronic hunger, and the Roots program, which helps feed homebound seniors. Both programs have expanded this year, Brock said.
“One of the magical things about the work we’re able to do is that we’re able to say yes,” Brock said. “We’re able to do that because of the generosity of so many people stepping forward with donations that will let us continue to say yes and not be in a situation where some people are getting service and others are not.”
Of the 19,000 people who have visited the Missoula Food Bank this year, 65 percent have visited between one and three times.
Brock says temporary circumstances often leave area residents without enough food in the home. Others, like senior citizens and people living with a disability, rely on the Food Bank more often, as their fixed incomes have not kept pace with the increasing cost of living.
“It has been shocking to uncover the extent of food insecurity among our children and young families,” said Kelli Hess, the organization’s program operations director. “Hunger is in every school in this community. Donations at this time of the year help us to meet this basic need for our youngest and most vulnerable neighbors.”
Contact reporter Martin Kidston at firstname.lastname@example.org