Kelli Hess and Gregg Asciutto of the Missoula Food Bank hold a sack of potatoes that’s among the 40,000 pounds of spuds donated by Karl Tyler Chevrolet in Missoula. The gift is the largest single donation in the food bank’s history, and comes during the annual Can the Bobcats Food Drive leading up to Saturday’s football game between Montana and Montana State.

The University of Montana’s 54-35 victory in Saturday’s Brawl of the Wild wasn’t the only win for Missoula. The city also topped Bozeman as part of Can the Bobcats/Can the Griz, the 16th annual food drive competition that wrapped up at the end of the first quarter during the state rivalry game.

Missoula hadn’t beat Bozeman since the first year of the drive, but brought in more donations this year, with 196,160 pounds of food and $85,227 in donations for the Missoula Food Bank.

That bested Bozeman, which raised 194,603 pounds and $65,523.47. For the purposes of the competition, each dollar raised counted as a pound of food.

“This is a remarkable amount of food,” said Jessica Allred, director of development and advocacy for the Missoula Food Bank. “This drive is really helpful on both sides of the state.”

Both cities outdid their totals from last year, when Missoula brought in 121,609 pounds of food, losing to Bozeman’s 171,554 pounds.

“This allows us to do really wonderful things in the community by tying food insecurity, a really serious issue, to this rivalry game,” Allred said.

She said Missoula saw a significant number of donations during the final days of the drive, including 40,000 pounds of potatoes donated by Karl Tyler Chevrolet.

“We were at 80,000 pounds on Wednesday, we got a lot of food in just three days,” Allred said.

When it comes to donating food, Allred said there are no losers, even though it was gratifying for Missoula to succeed after 14 straight years where Bozeman collected more donations.

“There was this thought of, is this even a competition anymore? We pulled out all the stops and we had great participation from so many businesses,” she said. “When we found out we won, we screamed for a while, maybe a solid two minutes.”

The Missoula Food Bank will hold its annual Thanksgiving turkey distribution Monday and Tuesday starting at noon at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

Allred said she doesn’t expect fans in Bozeman to take the loss lightly, and fully expects to see new donation records set next year.

“I expect that next year, Bozeman is going to blow it up. This enlivens a little more motivation,” she said.

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