MISSOULA — Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure Missoula's children are getting enough nutritious food is always a challenge. But with the economic hardships of recent weeks, that mission is even more critical.
The Missoula Food Bank has been adjusting to the demand and you can join us in helping out.
People may have seen the "Kids Eat Free" bus around town in recent summers and not realized what a lifeline it is. The bus loads up "grab and go" food nearly every day, taking food directly to hungry families.
"In the summer time that expands. So, right now, we're at two sites every day. And when summer hits that bus goes to four different sites and then we're all over the community as well," said Missoula Food Bank Director of Development and Advocacy Jessica Allred.
But this year the need is even more acute with the pandemic's economic punch. Missoula County Public Schools has distributed thousands of additional meals. But now the Missoula Food Bank is prepping for a busy summer.
"Absolutely. And we've been so grateful for the community's response. You know, I think the innovation of MCPS being able to send meals out on the bus routes, that's been so helpful to families," Allred told MTN News.
"We know that transition to summer, those school meal routes aren't going to be going anymore. So, it's going to transition to a more traditional kind of open meal site that our community has seen before," she added.
Yet this assignment is surprisingly upbeat, with infectious enthusiasm along with the eats, "it's set up like an ice cream truck. We blast this really great song that the Whizpops made for us," Allred said.
"You know, we look at a map of Missoula and we take a look at where kids are maybe able to walk," she added. "And for neighborhoods or communities that it's not within walking distance or a safe walkable route to an open meal site, that's where we put the bus."
Allred told MTN News the Missoula Food Bank has noticed fluctuating demand over the past weeks. Now, with stimulus funds running out, is when the community can step in to help.
"More families are struggling economically. And these kinds of resources are so important right now," she explained.
KPAX and the Scripps Family Impact Fund through the Scripps Howard Foundation will make a $12,000 contribution to the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center -- and we’d like to try and make that even more.
We’ll be on Facebook Live at 6 p.m. on Thursday doing a sort of “telethon” to help raise awareness and hopefully raise some more money. Join us on our Facebook page, and if you can make a donation that would be great. You can also miss to help out.