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Flathead food banks see dramatic increase in food distribution

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Posted at 4:38 PM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 18:48:25-04

KALISPELL — Food banks across Northwest Montana have seen a dramatic increase in services since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic

Montana Food Bank Network CEO Gayle Carlson said the network is on pace to double the amount of food distributed last year.

“A typical year for us last year was about 11 to 12 million pounds that we distributed, we’ve already surpassed that halfway through the year,” said Carlson.

The Montana Food Bank Network serves 165 food banks and pantry’s across Montana.

Carlson said federal programs have helped supplement food supply levels as food distribution wait times increased during the pandemic.

“Typically, we experience about a 3-week delay before our deliveries arrive and we’ve been experiencing 3-4 months, so some things that we started ordering in April are finally starting to arrive,” said Carlson.

North Valley Food Bank in Whitefish Director Jessy Lee expects to distribute 27,000 services this year, an increase of 10,000 from last year.

Lee says the food bank is limiting volunteers compared to years past due to COVID-19 restrictions. Leading to added stress as food demands continue to increase.

“So typically, we have just about 200 a month, right now because of COVID-19 we’re limiting it to about 25 a month, as you can imagine that is a pretty tremendous strain on our staff," said Lee.

Carlson expects a high demand for food services across Montana to continue for the foreseeable future.

“Earlier this year we were saying by the end of this year, but I think we’re going to be looking at least until the end of 2021,” said Carlson.

Due to COVID-19, Carlson said food bank drivers are racking up miles, making more in-home deliveries than ever before.

The North Valley Food Bank has seen a 40% increase in people wanting services on a weekly basis since the beginning of the pandemic.