Montana Food Bank Network marshaling assistance for hungry during COVID-19

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Posted at 7:51 AM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 09:54:08-04

MISSOULA — Among the hardest working people right now are those who run the state's food banks and pantries, as they try to maintain an already strained food pipeline to the hungry.

While some of us are reasonably prepared and ready for this coronavirus shutdown, that's certainly not the case for everyone and the Montana Food Bank Network is on high alert to help keep the nutrition flowing.

We talked with Montana Food Bank Network CEO Gayle Carlson -- who like the rest of her staff is working from home -- leaving a skeleton crew on hand in the Missoula warehouse to handle orders.

"As far as agencies needing assistance, we are going to keep minimal operations going. We have our warehouse still remains there. So our drivers and our warehouse personnel will be on-site for any assistance that agencies may need," Carlson explained.

MFBN is operating on "maximum food security" protocol which means limited access with no volunteers. The primary effort now is to keep existing deliveries on track, as larger food banks adopt a "marketplace approach" to food distribution.

"So what they'll do is they'll prepackage boxes and make them available for a pick up and go. And some of them are doing like grab and go bags for children that have meals in them," Carlson said.

"Because while they're on Spring Break obviously they're not accessing anything and then when that is over, and there's still no schools available to them they're still going to be able to get someone's help. And the Backpack Program is going to be challenging too for them to access at school."

MFBN staff are making dozens of calls, checking with all the small food pantries to see what's needed.

"And we'll continue to do that through the week to see what their current inventory status is, what do they need any additional supplies, and what they're doing to adapt to serve their communities," Carlson said.

"So if there's some assistance there that they need we can provide that. If they need an interim delivery we can assist with that. We're just trying to be as open as possible to meeting the needs of their families," she concluded.