KALISPELL — The Flathead Food Bank in Kalispell served more than 40,000 people in 2021, making sure those most vulnerable always had food on the table.
“And that doesn’t even include our holiday, our backpacks that went out, our senior commodities programs, that’s just here in our Kalispell pantry and our mobile pantries,” Flathead Food Bank Director Jamie Quinn told MTN News.
Quinn said 2021 was another big distribution year for the food bank after 2020’s record-breaking numbers.
“So, in 2020 we had done about 3.4 million pounds of food, in 2021 we did 2.75 million pounds, which is still about a million more than we normally would in 2019 and in years past,” added Quinn.
After being shut down for 16 months, the food bank’s in-person pantry re-opened in July after transitioning back from curbside delivery only.
Quinn said the in-person pantry gives community residents more power and choices in their food options.
“You know, pick out what they want out of our pantry as opposed to us just throwing food in their car whether it was something they liked or didn’t like so; it really provides them that sense of dignity and allows them to feel like they’re shopping in a store just like everybody else does in our community,” said Quinn.
Operating out of a 50-year building, Quinn said a full remodel project is in the works in 2022 expanding the existing pantry and cold storage space.
“At this point, with our permitting and our builders and our architects and our engineers, we’re hoping to start looking at breaking ground in the summer this year if all goes well,” added Quinn.
Quinn said the lack of affordable housing in Flathead County may lead to an increase in food bank customers in 2022.
“It’s hard to meet some people where they’re at as best as we can with the limited resources that they have. We really want to talk with our community about what housing looks like and what it should look like,” said Quinn.