The Montana Partnership to End Childhood Hunger(MT-PECH) met in Helena on Tuesday to discuss the successes and challenges the state faces in combating hunger.
The coalition’s guiding document is the 10-Step Plan to End Childhood hunger in Montana that was developed in 2010.
“These steps include social services as well as grassroot efforts across the state of Montana to address the needs of childhood hunger,” said Jamie Kocsondy, program manager of Missoula Food Bank & Community Center.
The steps are: breakfast for school children, meals during out-of-school time, summer food service programs, after-school programs, access to public food programs, access to locally grown food, pregnancy and breastfeeding support, emergency food system, nutrition education and financial education for families.
Kocsondy said since the implementation of the methodology, they have seen success in most areas.
Since 2013 Montana has increased the number of school breakfasts served by nearly 1 million meals. However, the state also faces significant challenges.
“Some of the biggest challenges that Montana faces are resources, whether that's transportation to getting food to communities or getting children to the food,” said Kocsondy.
Montana communities also have trouble finding staffing to implement the programs and funding to continue to support all of the programs. Those challenges haven’t detoured MT-PECH from fighting to eliminate childhood hunger.
Lisa Lee, MT-PECH co-chair and Montana No Kid Hungry director, stressed the importance of children getting the food they need.
“We expect so much of them, but so many don’t have fuel for their bodies or their brains,” said Lee. “The kids that are living in food insecure households are in a constant state of survival. They need to know where their next meal is coming from before they can learn, and just be kids.”
As for the future, the coalition will continue to work to reduce barriers communities and children face. Plans also include taking a closer look at how to improve financial literacy for partner organizations and families.
MT-PECH is comprised of community advocates, public and private food programs, healthcare professionals, agriculture representatives, and faith groups.
More about their mission to eliminate childhood hunger through building awareness, addressing the root causes and maximizing community resources can be found on their website .