MISSOULA — Food banks are much needed during the holidays to help families make ends meet.
Most of the food can be donated from all over the country, but the Missoula Food Bank and local growers are emphasizing the importance of farm-to-table food donations.
“As we go into the holiday season it gets busier and busier. The number of households and families that need our services from now to the end of the year is very very high,” explained Missoula Food Bank Director of Development and Advocacy Jessica Allred. “We serve as the stopgap. We are the safety net for families in need of food emergency services.”
“At the end of the month, we see more than a thousand families in need. Throughout the month we provide about 10,000 services,” Allred said.
During the holidays' places like the Missoula Food Bank are needed the most.
“We care about having an ample amount of food on our shelves and in our show but we also care about the nutritional content of the food that we are able to offer,” noted food bank Director of Operations Kelli Hess.
Food banks are known for helping families in need, homeless shelters, seniors, and more. While any type of food donations are helpful oftentimes some of the food isn’t the healthiest.
Organizations like the Missoula Food Bank are emphasizing the farm-to-table mentality to help promote more healthy nutrition which is rarely accessible for people at food banks.
“There is undeniably an affordability gap between some of the highest nutrient local foods and families that are struggling to stretch super limited resources to make sure to have food for the month,” Allred said.
“Sourcing food that is highly nutritious is really important we work with local markets and local farmers, especially fresh locally grown produce in our store,” explained Hess.
“I think whenever you can source locally there is such a great impact to that. It’s a huge impact on our local economy. Thinking about farmers and local growers as this really critical part of our food system. Our food bank partners with local farmers, with Garden City Harvest -- which is an urban growing non-profit. But also with people who grow themselves.” - Missoula Food Bank Director of Development and Advocacy Jessica Allred
“We have four neighborhood farms within the urban core of Missoula where we grow food for the food bank,” explained Garden City Harvest Executive Director Gene Zosel. “We grow 20,000 pounds of food for them now as opposed to 2,000 pounds when we started.”
Garden City Harvest is solely dedicated to donating its food and land to those in need.
“A big part of our mission is to make this food accessible for everyone. Not just people who can afford to buy high quality produce at the market rate,” Zosel said. So, we are trying to make sure that the little old lady that lives off food stamps at the senior facility can still buy food she wants,”
Garden City Harvest starts growing its crops a year early to prepare for the holidays.
“Squash, potatoes, carrots. Any of those sorts of things we plan out well in advance that we are going to grow these things to supply the food to the food bank. We aren’t giving them a bok choy or things that aren’t useful. We are giving them the practical staples that they know they want need and deserve to have access to.” - Garden City Harvest Executive Director Gene Zosel
Thousands of families in Montana will have nutritious produce to help make this holiday season a little less stressful. Both Garden City Harvest and the Missoula Food Bank hope this type of operation will spread across the country.
The Missoula Food Bank is a major beneficiary of the Can the Cats' food drive, which runs through Saturday which happens to be game day for the Brawl of the Wild. Additionally, the 36th annual holiday food drive begins on Dec. 1.