Aaron Brock

Missoula Food Bank director Aaron Brock

Fresh off a record-setting victory in the Can the Cats food drive in November, the Missoula Food Bank has started into its busiest season of the year and its largest annual fundraising drive.

The Holiday Drive, in its 32nd year, will be the first in the food bank’s new, expanded location on Wyoming Street.

Since relocating, the food bank has seen a dramatic increase in use and need, executive director Aaron Brock said. He believes the rise is not due to new demand, but rather the ability of the food bank to provide services to more people who previously were not using it.

In a 2013 survey, the food bank found that 60 percent of respondents said there had been times their family needed food assistance, but due to some barrier were not able to use the Missoula Food Bank.

Because of the rise in need it attempts to serve, Brock said the food bank has raised the goals for this year’s Holiday Drive to $225,000 and 55,000 pounds of food. While its financial goal remains the same as last year's, this year's drive seeks 5,000 more pounds of food.

“We don’t take that rise for granted, and we’re certainly raising the stakes this year,” he said. “A warehouse that’s full and bank accounts that we can rely on to keep our shelves stocked for the next few months are critical.”

In November, the Missoula Food Bank brought in more than $139,000 and 250,000 pounds of food — including a single 50,000 pound donation of potatoes and onions from Missoula Federal Credit Union — to win the donation competition with Bozeman’s food bank.

A grocery bag that can be filled with donations for the Holiday Drive will be inserted in Tuesday’s Missoulian and includes a list of drop-off locations.

Jackson Contracting Group will be matching up to $10,000 online and mail-in donations on Tuesday. Missoula Fresh Market is also supporting the drive with a donation of $10,000 in food.

While monetary donations give the food bank flexibility in purchasing specific needs, Brock said they are always in need of food donations that are high in protein, as well as canned soup and vegetables, and cereal. Brock added that condiments, while not a staple on which the food bank would frequently use its own funds to keep in stock, are quickly picked up when available.

“When we do have ketchup or mayonnaise or mustard on our shelves, it is really appreciated,” he said.

Donations to the Missoula Food Bank can be made in person at 1720 Wyoming St. or online at www.missoulafoodbank.org.

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