MISSOULA — The old catchphrase was "where's the beef?"
Well, it turned up Friday morning at the Montana Food Bank Network's Missoula warehouse, thanks to a generous new effort by Montana's beef producers.
The Producer Partnership started last spring as a means to organize efforts by Montana's beef producers to help feed the hungry. Longtime Park County rancher Matt Pierson showed up on Friday morning with a load of 15,000 pounds of high quality, locally grown Montana ground beef.
It's become a statewide effort, with startup money from The Kendeda Fund, corporate sponsorship from Big Sky Brewing, a grant from Montana's Coronavirus Relief Fund and logistical help from the Missoula law firm of Christian, Samson and Basket.
“It was really clear to us that the need was there and that it was bigger than we ever dreamed it was and the number of people that wanted to help,” Pierson said. “The calls started coming in. The money started coming in and it was just really one of those things. I was like, ‘yeah, we can do more. We need to do more’.”
“The component they didn't have was, well, ‘how do we distribute it statewide?’ And that's when it was a natural marriage and we got touch with each other and I said ‘man, if you can get the beef donated, we’ll get it picked up from processors and we'll get it distributed to those in need statewide. We're already going to almost every county in the state,” said Montana Food Bank Network Chief Operation Officer Brent Weisgram.
“The need will always be there, COVID or not, or anything else or not. And, yeah, it's a springboard for us, but we want to make this a permanent situation. For sure,” Pierson told MTN News.
The donations are a huge help to the food programs as beef prices have been soaring. In fact, Weisgram says the Montana Food Bank Network saved enough on this one load to purchase an entire semi-truck of turkeys.