The Missoula Food Bank is hoping to follow up a strong month for donations in November during its 30th annual Holiday Food Drive, which begins Tuesday.
Despite computer problems during last year’s holiday drive, Missoula Food Bank executive director Aaron Brock said the organization still managed to meet its goal of raising $225,000 and 50,000 pounds of food during the month of December. The food bank has the same goals this year.
And on Tuesday, monetary donations will go twice as far.
Jessica Allred, the food bank's director of development and advocacy, said Mountain Water Co., a longtime supporter, will be match up to $10,000 in donations that come in as part of the nationwide Giving Tuesday campaign.
Donations can be made at missoulafoodbank.org, in person at 219 S. Third St. W. or by mailing a check dated Dec. 1, Allred said.
The Missoula Food Bank is coming off a month in which it won the annual Can the Bobcats Food Drive for the first time in 15 years, with Missoulians donating more than 196,000 pounds of food and more than $85,000. Last week, the organization also held its annual Thanksgiving distribution, providing 2,000 holiday meals to Missoula-area residents.
Allred said the winter months drive up the need for the food bank's services. In the past year, the organization has helped one in six people in Missoula County, she added.
Brock said that aside from distributing food that has been donated, the food bank buys other items it needs.
“We have spent $60,000 more since July 1 than anticipated, largely because of more need and higher food prices,” he said. “Donations immediately replenish the shelves, which run low or are empty.”
The food bank chose not to raise its Holiday Food Drive goals this year because, at the same time, it is working with donors who are supporting a new building for the organization.
Brock said cleanup of the site for the new Missoula Food Bank, at the corner of Wyoming and Catlin streets, will begin in December. An architect is finalizing the design for the building, and the food bank intends to move by the start of 2017.
Allred said that as part of a long-standing partnership with Missoula firefighters, city and rural fire stations will serve as drop off locations for the drive. A grocery bag that can be filled with donations will be inserted in Wednesday’s Missoulian and includes a list of drop-off locations.
For those who want to donate food rather than money, Allred said meat is always one of the most expensive and difficult items to come by.
“We are at the end of hunting season. As long as game meat is professionally processed, we can accept it,” she said.
This year, the food bank started a new after school snack program, as well as expanded other meal programs for Missoula students, Allred said. The organization also recently adjusted the amount of food given out to larger families, meaning a higher need for items like cereal and peanut butter.
Brock said donations that prioritize healthy food and personal care items like soap, shampoo and diapers are always appreciated.
Brock said the end of the year has historically been a season of giving – what he called an “end-of-year swell of generosity” – and he is optimistic about the food bank meeting its holiday goals again.
“I am continually amazed by the generosity Missoulians display,” he said. “This particular drive is critical to keep food on our shelves.”