Over the past months, Montana Food Bank Network has been working hard to address the changing needs of our network partners and neighbors struggling with food insecurity in our state.  Much has changed since the impacts of coronavirus were first felt by Montanans.  One thing that has not changed during this time is Montanans supporting each other and our community.  We have seen such an outpouring of support that we are humbled to be able to do the work that you have deemed vital during this time.  

Montana Food Bank Network is committed to ensuring everyone in Montana, no matter what community they live in, has access to the healthy and fresh food that they need to keep thriving. We are continuing to work during Governor Bullock’s Phase 2 Reopening Order as an essential service for all Montanans across the state that are facing food insecurity. To safely maintain our daily operations we have made several adjustments. You can read our response in its’ entirety here >>

Montana Food Bank Network is working with Feeding America and our Network partners across the state to support the changes being implementing in their distribution numbers, methods, hours, etc to meet the increasing demand during the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

As we expected to see COVID-19 has had a significant economic impact on the state of Montanan. This pandemic has a dramatic increase in the need for food in these past few months. With low-income households and senior citizens feeling the biggest impact.

Due to businesses closing or changing their business model, the unemployment rate in Montana jumped from 3.5% in February to 11.3% in April[1].  While businesses are currently reopening under the Governor’s Phase 2 directives, many are returning to work at reduced hours, if they are able to return at all.

We are working to keep the public notified of information and updates via this page as new information is received. Additionally, an e-newsletter will be sent to subscribers of our “Hunger Updates” e-newsletter.   Sign up to receive our e-newsletter at the bottom of our homepage at MFBN.org. 

[1] Seasonally adjusted, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.mt.htm)

If you need food

Our Network has risen to meet the challenges head on. With few exceptions our partner food pantries are open and committed to providing food for those in need. You can find the closest resource to you here. Below are listed all the changes in their services that we are aware of. However, we encourage anyone looking for food assistance to call before showing up as changes in hours and services are happening daily.

Changes in Network services due to COVID-19

Additional services

SNAP: Offices of Public Assistance are closed to the public until further notice as they respond to recommendations on public safety. DPHHS we will continue to provide essential services online through apply.mt.gov or by telephone through the Public Assistance Help Line at 1-888-706-1535. DPHHS is shifting additional staff to serve clients through the Public Assistance Helpline during this time. In addition, individuals are welcome to contact MFBN’s SNAP Hotline for application assistance by phone or to pre-screen for SNAP eligibility. Contact our SNAP Outreach Coordinator at (406) 239-6475. Specific COVID-19 information and eligibility can be found here>>

WIC offices are only offering services remotely. Local WIC clinic information can be found at www.signupwic.com and through the state office at 800-433-4298 or [email protected]. Those enrolled will receive WIC benefits as usual, and anyone experiencing difficulty with getting formula at their local store should contact their local clinic or the state office.

 Child Nutrition: Many schools across Montana are offering free meals to children during unanticipated school closures. Meals are available to all children and teens, age 18 and under. A list of meal programs is available here, and is continually being updated. Schools have significant flexibility in how the meals are delivered so please contact your local school to find out exactly how and where to access meals. Many schools are also posting these details on their websites and social media pages.

Senior Nutrition: Most congregate meal programs are closed in response to current health and safety recommendations, however many of these congregate meal programs are offering take out meals and home delivered meals for seniors.  For more information on meals and resources for seniors,contact your local Area Agency on Aging at (800) 551-3191.

Challenges the Network is facing

  • The Network has seen a significant decline in Grocery Rescue as the panic buying in grocery stores continue. In 2019, 9.4 million pounds of food were donated through our Grocery Rescue Program to our network partners. Grocery Rescue donations include fresh produce, meat, dairy, eggs and many other expensive hard to access foods. Because of the decline in Grocery Rescue, network partners are now turning to Montana Food Bank Network to provide more of these items than we have in the past.  Montana Food Bank Network is working with local and national partners to acquire additional foods to supplement the loss of Grocery Rescue product for the duration. 
  • Senior centers have closed which means congregate meal sites that provide many seniors with consistent access to hot, nutritious meals, have ceased. Meal delivery programs are still going for now, but many have limited outreach due to lack of volunteers. Many partners have adjusted their services to allow for some home deliveries to seniors. However, we expect to see a significant increase of use in service at Network food pantries for seniors. 
  • Schools are closed. This lays a significant unexpected burden on families. Access to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunches for all children under the age of 18 has transitioned to grab-n-go meals as well as deliveries along many bus routes. This solution is great as long as it continues. However, many families are facing additional childcare costs and/or possible job loss due to increased layoffs. Our Network has already seen significant increases in the number of new client visits in the past week. As business and school closures continue, we expect this number to rise significantly. 
  • Our Network food pantries are reporting 20-30% increases in visits.

Get involved

Many of our partners are experiencing shifts and changes in their donation and/or volunteer needs. We recommend checking your local pantry’s Facebook page before visiting in person. Many are listing specifics there. 

  • GIVE FUNDS: All partners working to provide for their communities are doing so at a significant increased expense. Monetary donations help increase the buying power of the Network and allows us to increase the efficiency of our food distribution model. You can make a donation directly to Montana Food Bank Network here >> 
  • VOLUNTEERS: To ensure the safety of our food, Montana Food Bank Network as well as many of our partners cannot accept volunteers at this time. We encourage you to check Facebook or call to verify specific details at your local pantry.
  • HELP US MEET A MATCH: The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation have generously donated $25,000 to the ongoing relief of the Cornoavirus pandemic. There is also an additional $12,500 in matching funds. Your donation could have twice the impact by helping us meet this match. Donate here>>>
  • SHOP AT ALBERTSONS: March 25- April 14 Albertsons grocery stores in Montana will match all donations made in-store. Make a donation and double the impact. In addition, there is an online platform so that the community can make a donation online instead of in-store, if they choose. Donations will stay local to help neighbors in our community.
  • STAY INFORMED: Sign up at the bottom of this page to receive weekly e-newlsetter updates or follow us on Facebook for regular updates.

THANK YOU to all those that have stepped up to provide amazing community support during this unprecedented times. Find a list of those who have reached out in support of us here >

ADDRESSING COMMUNITY NEEDS TOGETHER: Survey is open for Network members or other community organizations to submit additional "pop-up" resources your organization is providing in your area or needs your organization has that the public can fill.

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