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Montana Ag Network: How Ag businesses help food bank in Great Falls

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Posted at 11:48 AM, Dec 22, 2022

GREAT FALLS - The Great Falls Community Food Bank depends on the generosity of community members to help those in need.

The non-profit also gets a big boost from larger companies in the form of beans, oats, and milk.

When a need for helping neighbors arises, companies like Montana Milling answer the call.

“Over the last three years we’d heard of shortages at the food bank so we called up to offer support,” said Montana Milling Procurement Manager Sam Schmidt. “The Great Falls Food Bank has received 10,000 pounds of our oat flakes and four thousand pounds of whole wheat flour.”

Montana Millings — which has processing plants in Great Falls and Conrad, Montana Milling and employs about 35 people — has also sent about 6,000 pounds of flour to other members of the Montana Food Bank Network.

Portland-based Columbia Grain International has a large Montana footprint. The company has been in business for 45 years and has grain elevators throughout Montana.

The timing was right to give 1,972 pounds of its new bean and pulse line, Balanced Bushel, to the food bank.

“Particularly this year with high inflation, high energy costs,” said CGI President Jeff Van Pevenage. “There’s a lot of people that are less fortunate and really need the food banks in order to provide subsistence to themselves.”

The Balanced Bushel name was a product of company employees. It has been in the works for about two years and Van Pevenage says the plan is to make it available on store shelves and through e-commerce.

Food bank workers say it’s a great donation, especially as the weather turns cold.

“For one thing it packs a punch,” said Doug Perrien, Great Falls Community Food Bank warehouse manager. “It has a lot of protein, it has a lot of fiber. It’s almost like a super food.”

With more people depending on assistance, donations can help ease a burden for the non-profits.

“It’s just something that we don’t have to buy strictly,” said Perrien. “It’s just given to us as a gift. So it helps us out to where if we need to buy something else, we can.”

Perrien is also grateful to Meadow Gold which provides milk, cottage cheese and sour cream throughout the year.

Generosity isn’t limited to Great Falls, and it’s not just the needy who are impacted.

“One of the responses I got back after we gave to the Chester food bank was from my manager up there,” said Van Pevenage. “He sent a message to the whole company that said how excited the whole town was and how good it made their employees feel that they were able to take care of their community in this way.”

“It just feels good inside that these bigger companies are helping us out to feed people,” said Perrien.

The companies say it’s important to make an impact in the communities they serve.

“I have been promoting ourselves as a company that likes to cultivate our people, we like to cultivate our customers, and we call it cultivating our communities,” said Van Pevenage. “We're a large part of the communities that we operate in.

“Over the last three years food security has become an issue and we're processing products and shipping them across the country and we're happy to also support any local markets,” said Schmidt.