KALISPELL — The Flathead Food Bank has been a staple in northwest Montana since 1982 distributing millions of pounds of food each year to community members in need.
“We’ve been home for a long time; it was just time to finally own,” Flathead Food Bank director Jamie Quinn said.
The food bank in Kalispell has officially purchased the space they’ve rented and operated out of since 2009 at the Gateway Community Center.
Quinn says the purchase is years in the making and allows the food bank to expand within its existing space becoming a Northwest Regional Warehouse for multiple counties in the area.
“We want to be able to really continue what we’ve kind of been doing but do it on a more efficient and actual legitimate level,” Quinn told MTN News.
Quinn says establishing a regional warehouse means the food bank wouldn’t have to rely on the Montana Food Bank Network in Missoula for food supply, which would cut down food delivery wait times for more rural areas like the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning.
She says the plan is to have the regional warehouse up and running in the coming months, “realistically hoping for maybe April, but if not, we’re looking at maybe six months or less.”
The Northwest Montana United Way -- which owns the Gateway Community Center -- sold the space to the food bank with the idea of the center becoming a hub for local non-profits.
United Way Executive Director Roxanna Parker says she is thrilled to have the food bank become permanent members of the Center.
“Having the Flathead Food Bank here is a perfect fit for the mission, the vision, of the Gateway Community Center, but also it just makes sense."
Quinn says the food bank distributed just short of 3.5 million pounds of food in 2020, more than double the distribution amount of an average year.
She says donations from community members both large and small help the food bank run smooth day-after-day.
“We’ve been so fortunate to know that we’ve never had to worry and wonder if at the end of a distribution time if we were going to run out of food before we ran out of cars,” Quinn said. “So, that’s a great thing to be super grateful for is that the community has made sure that food security is really important.”
Quinn says additional expansion ideas for the food bank include a new commercial kitchen and food processing area.
The Flathead Food Bank delivered close to 60,000 pounds of food to the Blackfeet Nation in September during their 14-day emergency lockdown.