Project Name: Case Management, Outreach, Operations, and Food Purchase
Sponsoring Organization: Big Sky Community Food Bank
According to the Montana Food Bank Network, approximately 1 in 10 Montanans struggle with hunger and nearly 37,000 children live in food-insecure homes. Since 2012, The Big Sky Community Food Bank has been providing free emergency food to Big Sky workers and families, along with a wide array of services to address the underlying causes of household food insecurity. Big Sky Food Bank customers are the backbone of Big Sky – service industry professionals. Exorbitantly high housing costs, coupled with low wages and little savings make emergency food and social services an occasional necessity for these Big Sky households.
Customers can access the food bank once per month, and there are no “qualifying” factors – anyone can use our services. In FY 2021 we served 1504 food boxes to 763 households, including 40 children and 17 senior citizens. We also delivered food to 40 quarantined households and signed up 37 front-line workers for their vaccine appointments. Our other services include: a community coatroom, with toiletries, linens, outwear, cookware, and household necessities; gas cards; vouchers for fresh produce from the Country Market; application assistance for various Covid Relief funds; Income Tax filing assistance; help to enroll in Healthcare Insurance; SNAP application assistance; and referrals for a wide variety of mental and behavioral health services.
Each household has access to our Big Sky community resource guide, full of helpful information about programs and services in the area, and a listening ear to talk through household challenges and solutions. We increased our number of clients this year by 180 new customers. Our broad network of service-related partners in Big Sky – from the library to Women in Action to BSCO to Discovery Academy – provide a web of supports for our Big Sky neighbors.
We are very happy to partner with all Big Sky grocery stores, as well as BlueMoon bakery and several kitchens and restaurants, to provide locally resourced food for our households. At the onset of Covid, several of our community’s central kitchens used their inventory to create soups, casseroles, and meals for our freezers. We are always happy to receive donations from Big Sky’s rich food network. Additionally, many of Big Sky’s property managers bring unopened food from their vacation rentals that we then pass on to our customers. About half of the food that we distribute comes from Big Sky, the rest being purchased through the Montana Food Bank Network. In FY 2021 we distributed 70,688 lbs of food to Big Sky households.
We are happy to report that we have recently expanded our space (located underneath Cafe 191) adding new refrigerators and freezers. These changes will accommodate more support services including a kitchen, computer lab, washer and dryer, and access to meeting, training, and conference space. In the wake of Covid, we increased our operating hours by 2 days per week and hired new contract staff. We are now seeing the benefit of these decisions and are making them permanent into the coming years. New this summer, we are offering free Summer Lunch to any child in Big Sky and partnering with the Fork and Spoon (Montana’s first and only pay-what-you-can restaurant) to bring Take and Bake meals to Big Sky.