Food Banks Resume In-Store Purchases Amid Continued High Demand

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Customers can once again shop in-store at the Flathead Food Bank, which opened on July 12, as demand continues to exceed pre-pandemic levels.

At the end of the summer, customers will also be able to return in-store to the North Valley Food Bank (NVFB) once the non-profit organization completes a large remodel project that includes an additional 800 square feet to increase l space for refrigeration, freezing and dry products. , and the installation of a commercial kitchen.

Customers can still pick up pre-packaged canned foods during remodeling. Once the remodeling is complete, NVFB will switch to a choice model approach.

“During the pandemic, we distributed food through a drive-thru model,” said Sophie Albert, CEO of NVFB.

But while a drive-thru ensures social distancing, Albert said his prepackaged box model isn’t as individualized, resulting in one size fits all. A family may be given food they cannot cook, or an elder may have more than they need.

“Now our plan is to move from the pre-packaged box model to a model with more integrity and more autonomy,” said Albert, who believes a model of choice will make customers more likely to come if they need help. . “We see a lot of stigma around that, like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to the food bank because that means I couldn’t get up. But that’s really not the case. Anyone can need it at some point in their life.

NVFB’s decision to incorporate the model of choice follows in the footsteps of food banks across the country and region.

At Flathead Food Bank, the Model of Choice has been an integral part of its operations for 10 years. Executive Director Jamie Quinn described it as a dignified approach to food distribution.

“The choice model gives customers the autonomy to choose the fruits or vegetables they want,” she said. “It’s a whole form of dignity.”

A volunteer packs food at the North Valley Food Bank in Whitefish on July 1, 2021. JP Edge | Flat head beacon

When customers buy the food they want and need in-store, it reduces potential waste. Customers also connect with other people outside of their homes and befriend familiar faces.

Both food banks have seen community members lose their jobs or wages on multiple occasions due to quarantine throughout the pandemic, making groceries unaffordable. The need for food distribution at NVFB has tripled since 2019, Albert said, serving a total of 1,294 people at the time and now a total of 4,445 people on a regular basis.

In a post-COVID transitional environment, families continue to face inordinate challenges in meeting their basic needs.

“Because housing expenses are skyrocketing, we are still seeing an increased need for food,” Quinn said.

Seeing the increased need for food distribution in the valley, the Kiita Foundation awarded a challenge grant of $ 75,000 to help accelerate the food bank renovation project during a recent NVFB Open House.

Community members can help with a small or large donation to the Fundraising Challenge Grant at NVFB. With donations of $ 50 or more, donors can paint a tile at the Stumptown Art Studio in Whitefish, which will adorn the new home of the renovated food bank.

Food banks are open to everyone. There are no eligibility requirements for the NVFB, but from this year the Flathead Food Bank requires proof of income.

NVFB will continue curbside distribution and is open every Wednesday and Thursday from noon to 6 p.m.

Flathead Food Bank hours of operation are Monday through Wednesday 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and Thursday 1 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. (406) 752-3663 for more information.

Any additional involvement, from food and cash donations to volunteer work, is encouraged, Quinn said.

“We really care about our neighbors and we know the Flatheads care about their community,” Quinn said. “The more volunteers we have to feed the community, the stronger we will be as a community. “

To donate to the North Valley Food Bank fundraising campaign, visit www.northvalleyfoodbank.org. To donate or volunteer for the Flathead Food Bank, visit www.flatheadfoodbank.org.


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