Sustainable Missoula: Poverello Center links ending hunger with sustainability

Jared Bell, food program manager, Poverello Center

At the Poverello Center, we often think about sustainability in economic terms. We ask ourselves what resources do the people we serve need to have a sustainable future? How can we connect them to services that will help them thrive over the long term? What housing resources are needed in our community to make sure everyone has a home?

As the Poverello Center’s food programs manager, I think a lot about sustainability and hunger. Having healthy food to eat that is affordable is critical for helping the guests of the Poverello Center find that sustainable future. Each day, I work with a team of volunteers to serve 400 to 600 meals. We also serve about 100 families a month at the food pantry located at the Pov. These programs are critical to helping people create an economically sustainable future for themselves.

The reality is that economic sustainability and ecological sustainability are deeply connected. People living in poverty are often pushed to the margins of our society. Those who are experiencing homelessness are more directly exposed to extreme weather such as flooding, very cold temperatures, and poor air quality. They also have less access to healthy food because it is often too expensive for them to purchase.

I am proud that the Poverello Center is playing a role in creating an ecologically sustainable future as well. According to the World Resources Institute, “food loss and waste accounts for about 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (4.4 Gt CO2e) per year. To put this in perspective, if food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter—surpassed only by China and the United States.”

Each month, Poverello Center’s Food Rescue program gathers 33,000 lbs of food from grocery stores and restaurants throughout Missoula that is about to expire. My team of volunteers and I then turn that food into the meals we serve at the Poverello Center.

Our partners at the Missoula Food Bank also have Food Rescue programs. The Missoula Food Bank gathers around 33,000 lbs per month. Together we prevent 66,000 lbs of food from going into our landfill each month and turn that food into healthy meals for people experiencing food insecurity.

One of the key action items in Missoula’s ZERO by FIFTY plan is to “Support a more complete and comprehensive food recovery network.” Through the combined efforts of the Poverello Center, Missoula Food Bank and the Montana Food Bank Network we are making great progress on this action item. I’m sure that with these efforts in mind, Missoula will be able to lead by example for other cities throughout the west and the effects on our most vulnerable populations can, in turn, be decreased. 

As I conclude, I want to take a moment to thank the grocery stores and restaurants who also partner with us to make our Food Rescue program possible. These include Missoula Fresh Market, Orange Street Food Farm, Albertsons, Target, Walmart, the Good Food Store, Rosauers, Cravens Coffee Company, Chipotle, and Starbucks. Next time you are shopping in one of these establishments, thank them for helping to feed Missoulians facing food insecurity and getting us closer to a Zero Waste future.

Jared Bell is Food Programs Manager at The Poverello Center.

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every Friday by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Upcoming Sustainability Events

Friday, November 29. Dear Tomorrow project launch and letter-writing party. 9-11am at Goodworks Ventures, 129 W. Alder St. 

Wednesday, December 4. Wildlife Friendly Gardens and Bird Feeders Workshop.  Offered by MUD. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 6 – 8pm. More info and tickets here.

Friday, December 6. Clark Fork Coalition Holiday Party. All are welcome to join for free food, fun, and friends. Clark Fork Coalition Offices, 140 S 4th W St. 5 – 9pm. 

Friday, December 6. Five Valleys Land Trust Holiday Party. All are welcome. 120 Hickory St, 5pm. 

Friday, December 6. Sunrise Movement Climate Strike. Details to follow.

Saturday, December 7. Fixit Clinic. Home ReSource invites you to give the gift of repair this holiday season. Why buy new when you can fix a cherished item that has seen better days? Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. More info here.

Thursday, December 12. Climate Smart Missoula’s Year End Celebration and Smarty Pants Awards. All are welcome to this annual celebration of local climate action! Details here.

Wednesday, December 18. Reuse & Upcycling of Ornament Workshop — workshop offered with MUD. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 6 – 8pm. Info & Tickets here.