An estimated 1 in 12 Montanans and 31,000 children experience food insecurity.

These numbers will likely increase as a result of current economic challenges.

Updated May 2023

What is food insecurity?

The inability to access food consistently results in reduced quality or a variety of diets. While food banks and federal nutrition programs have made severe hunger and malnutrition rare in this country, millions of low-income people in America are still experiencing food insecurity.

What is hunger?

Hunger is defined as the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food. Hunger occurs when households must reduce food intake or skip meals because the household lacks money and other resources for food.

The consequences of hunger are severe and long-lasting:

  • Individuals experiencing food insecurity have increased rates of both physical and mental health challenges;
  • Children experiencing food insecurity are more likely to have impaired cognitive development, lower math and reading scores, and higher rates of absenteeism;
  • Food insecurity among older adults leads to a variety of health problems including an increased chance of being hospitalized, a worsening of chronic conditions, a weakened immune system; and
  • Hunger has a significant economic impact on our state due to preventable healthcare costs, lower educational attainment, and lost productivity in the workforce.

Hunger in Montana

Hunger is directly related to the larger problem of economic insecurity in our state.  Low wages, job loss, and insufficient fixed incomes leave many families unable to keep food on the table while trying to afford the rising costs of housing, child care, and medical care.

Limited access to food also contributes to hunger and food insecurity in Montana.  Half of Montana‚Äôs 56 counties have areas considered food deserts: low-income areas where at least 500 people, and/or 33% of the residents, must travel more than ten miles to the nearest supermarket (or 1 mile in urban areas).  In Montana, more than 58,000 individuals live in areas considered food deserts and have limited access to a grocery store or supermarket, making access to fresh, affordable food a daily challenge.

Finally, hunger and food insecurity are worsened in our state due to the underutilization of the public food programs such as SNAP, WIC, School Breakfast, and the Summer Food Service program. Lack of knowledge about the programs, confusion over eligibility, limited program availability in some areas, as well as the stigma of participating in public programs is some of the reasons participation in these excellent programs is not maximized, contributing to increased food insecurity rates in Montana.

Montana Food Bank Network is a network to end hunger in Montana

Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN) has over 340 network partners across Montana providing food to those in need. In 2022, our food pantry and meal program partners served over 38,000 households each month. In addition to providing emergency food, MFBN works to increase participation in public food programs and supports policies to bring sustainable long-term solutions to hunger.

We cannot do it alone

We are lucky to be in a state that understands that hunger hides in every community. It is lurking around doorsteps in every neighborhood. Hunger is not something that you can see or shows a trail of damage like a hurricane. It is silent and we are here to bring it out in the light if only to smother it. We urge you to join this fight. Find a way to get involved whether it be donating, advocating, educating, or volunteering. Find out how to join Montana Food Bank Network’s efforts and make a difference in your community and the lives of thousands of Montanans.

Please contact us at [email protected] or call directly (406) 721-3825 for more ways to get involved.

Research & Reports

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Our Montana Hunger Report highlights findings from a survey of neighbors accessing food at a food pantry in Montana, as well as stories from individuals experiencing food insecurity. The report helps to illustrate the impacts of and factors contributing to hunger in our state.

2023 Montana Hunger Report

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