Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A small survey of residents named the cost and availability of certain food in Missoula as among the top changes they would like to see addressed in the local food system, Clair Battaglia told county commissioners last week.

The 2022 Rapid Community Food Assessment survey was not representative of the community, she said, and was smaller than the first survey, which was conducted in 2021. It took place from October to November and sampled 349 people.

The survey included questions relating to food access and participation in nutrition assistance, which found that only a small number of respondents participate in the latter. Of those who do participate in nutrition assistance, most (39%) relied on SNAP.

“Of those who do participate in a program, SNAP is the most community utilized program, followed by Double SNAP Dollars, and free and reduced school meals,” said Battaglia, who co-chairs the Missoula Food Policy Advisory Board.

When respondents were asked why they don't have the kinds of food “you want” to eat, most said the question didn't apply to them. Of those who did, most said they didn't have enough money to buy the food they wanted, followed by not enough time or that such food wasn't available.

Battaglia added that on the sourcing of food, the survey found that most went to the local grocery store, followed closely by a chain supermarket. When asked how often they eat out, most said once or twice per month, followed by once or twice per week.

The survey also found that most respondents don't compost their food. When asked why, most said composting services were too expensive, not in their area, or they didn't know how to compost. Those who do compost mostly do so at home.

“The Rapid Community Food Assessment is essentially a survey we put out to the community to gather feedback to guide our work over the upcoming year,” Battaglia said. “It's how they engage in the food system and their vision of the food system in the future.”

When asked about important issues regarding the future of farming, most respondents said sustainable farming practices was most important to them, followed by farmland preservation and the economic vitality of farming.

On the most important aspects of food access, most said the cost of health food was a top issue.

“It would be great to have a more representative snapshot of the community as a whole as opposed to the self-selected folks,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier.