MISSOULA — It's not boxing in the traditional sense. But it IS a competition involving boxes. And it's all about helping the hungry across Montana.
For the past several years, Missoula-area businesses have been pitching it to help the Montana Food Bank Network with its Mail-a-Meal program, where MFBN ships tons of food to people in the far-flung corners of the Treasure State with no access to a food bank or pantry.
So how does that turn into a competition? A scheduling error last winter.
"And it wasn't until Submittable showed up that I realized that ATG and Cognizant were already in the building. Had already done their box build their Mail-a-Meal box build," MFBN Director of Philanthropy Todd Lengacher explained to me. "And so when I brought in Submittable group to just orient them, I really just as a joke said, 'oh, by the way, here's what ATG/Cognizant did in the last two hours'. And the moment I said that all of their eyes lit up like 'game on'!"
"Well, it's awesome," Chris Isenberg said while taking a quick break. "This is an initiative that we really wanted to focus on in 2022. And when we saw that ATG had similar values that they wanted to focus on, we saw that there was an opportunity for us to add some competition, while also giving a really good impact to the community. So we jumped on it as quick as possible."
And quick is what the competition is all about, to see who can fill the most Mail-a-Meal boxes over the next 3-weeks. And although they're working in different sections of the MFBN warehouse, they're keeping an eye on each other.
"Teamwork is what really gets us ahead," Kate Pace with Team ATM/Cognizant says with a big smile. "We've also got a couple of alum here that know exactly what they're doing, so they're getting us all ramped up. You know, service is really important to us, and so this is one of the things that we can do to kind of engage the team and also make a difference in the community."
Lengacher says the volunteers are the only way to make the program work.
"It costs us more really to mail a 30 pound box of shelf stable food than it does then the food itself cost, and so one way to mitigate that cost is to have a group like this come in and and do the work for us."
A trophy is waiting on February 25th. But for these teams, they're already both winning by helping the hungry.