A “multi-layered” fundraiser involving Missoula Fresh Market, its customers and a dozen local businesses raised nearly $17,000 this holiday season for the Montana Food Bank Network and helped the environment at the same time.
On Tuesday, Fresh Market owner Ron Ramsbacher presented a check for $16,799 to Cassidy Green, the marketing and events coordinator for the Montana Food Bank Network, which works to reduce hunger across the state and provides emergency food assistance to those in need.
The grocery store gave out free reusable green tote bags to customers for the past couple of months in an effort to limit the use of plastic bags. In exchange, they gave customers the option of donating to the Montana Food Bank Network at the cash register. Local businesses purchased thousands of the bags as well and gave them to their staff.
“The idea is to help with the food bank and have our vendors and business partners purchase the bags,” Ramsbacher said. “It was kind of a three-way fundraiser with a little bit of the thought process to eliminate some of the plastic bags in Missoula too. We wanted to have a multi-layered fundraiser.”
First Interstate Bank and Republic Services each purchased 5,000 bags, while D.A. Davidson’s Ray Round and Sydney Carlino purchased 2,000. Other vendor sponsorships include Wheat Montana, Boar’s Head, 406 Pepsi, Bayern Brewery, Meyer’s Natural Beef, Missoula Electric Co-op, Energy Partners, GW Petroleum, Blackfoot Communications and the City of Missoula’s Zero Waste by Fifty program.
Chad Bauer, a manager at Republic Services, said he “was excited to participate and shares the vision of helping to limit the use of plastic bags in the Missoula community.”
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Green said the money allows the Montana Food Bank Network to reach its annual fundraising goal of $70,000 this year.
“It’s just a huge support from the community and something that means a lot to our neighbors,” she said. “The holidays are one of our busiest times of year, but it’s also one of our happiest times of year because we see our community come out in full arms volunteering and working in Missoula and the entire state.”
She said the money will help put food on the plates of people that “might otherwise go without food this holiday season.”
“It also helps feed into the rest of the year,” she said. “Donations are slower during the summer so it helps support us throughout the entire year to keep us going.”
Donnie Richard, a 16-year bagger at Missoula Fresh Market who was wearing his Special Olympics medallion for basketball proudly around his neck on Tuesday, said he sees a lot of people using the reusable bags and forgoing plastic.
“I’ve given out 1,000, maybe more,” he said.
Ramsbacher said the store doesn’t even keep track of how many bags the company goes through in a year, but the resuables will take a big dent out of it.
“We encourage all of our customers to use these or other reusable tote bags in our stores,” he said. “We are excited that the Missoula community supported this effort in two ways. One was to use the totes and the other to contribute to Montana Food Bank Network.”