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Children's Need for Food High Over Holidays

The BackPack assistance program is designed to help the nearly 48,000 children who are food insecure in Montana.(and the rest/flickr)
The BackPack assistance program is designed to help the nearly 48,000 children who are food insecure in Montana.(and the rest/flickr)
November 21, 2016

MISSOULA, Mont. – Thanksgiving is a time when families get together and eat wonderful food.

But some Montanans are less fortunate during the holidays.

One in seven people in Montana struggles with hunger, including nearly 48,000 children who aren't sure where their next meal will come from.

Gayle Gifford, CEO of the Montana Food Bank Network, says the BackPack meals program provides meals for low-income children over the weekend when they aren't getting school meals.

"Through the holiday breaks, we'll have them take extra home,” she explains. “Some schools will even choose to have their school pantry open during the holidays so they can still benefit from that, especially if there isn't any other emergency services available to them."

Gifford says 7,700 backpacks are typically distributed, but that number spikes to 11,000 during November and December.

Gifford says the Montana Food Bank Network begins prepping for the holiday season six to eight months in advance. This year the organization brought in about 40,000 pounds each of turkey and ham.

But despite the great need for food assistance in Montana, a stigma toward going to food pantries still exists. Gifford says that's slowly changing.

"You'll see a lot of families go there and they're very welcomed and the volunteers and employees that work at these pantries get to know their clients and understand the sensitivity and, really, how uncomfortable it can be for them – and they try to release that for them," she relates.

Gifford says the food bank network does not yet serve the most rural counties of Montana, but the organization is working on getting pantries established there.

The network also has used mobile food pantries to serve rural parts of the state.


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT