Community responds to food bank uptick

Hunter Herbaugh
Thursday, December 3, 2020
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Volunteer Peggy Erhart stocks shelves at the local food bank on Dec. 1. Hunter Herbaugh photo

Despite a national trend of food banks struggling to keep shelves stocked to provide for those in need, the Dawson County Food Bank supplies are adequately meeting local needs so far, according to manager Amber McPherson, and much of that is thanks to the generosity of the community. The local food bank has seen an uptick in clients, with McPherson saying that about a year ago the facility averaged 140 to 150 shoppers per month and are now seeing closer to 200 each month. Despite the increased clientèle, she said that they are han that they are handling the situation well.

“Our community has been amazing with monetary or food donations, especially this time of year. It seems the end of October to beginning of February, (the community) is very giving,” she said.

Many food banks around the country haven’t been as fortunate.

COVID-19 has resulted in many essential services coming under stress. Supply chain, transport and manufacturing issues have meant that supplies of items of all kinds have diminished while the demand for them continues to increase.

With the economic damage resulting from the pandemic, unemployment across the country has risen greatly. This has resulted in more people turning to food banks to keep themselves and their families fed. However, other COVIDrelated problems mean that ) food banks across the country are having a hard time getting food. 



In addition to donations by individuals, organizations and the local grocery stores, the local food bank also receives supplies through the Montana Network of Food Banks every six weeks. While some food banks in other regions have reportedly been having trouble getting orders like these in, McPherson says the local food bank has been getting its shipments reliably.

However, while the local situation is overall steady, McPherson noted there are some items they are having trouble keeping on the shelves. These include things she noted are for “simple meals.”

Canned food, canned vegetables, peanut butter, mac-and-cheese and water have all been fairly popular items.

The food bank has also had to make changes operationally due to the pandemic. This has included limiting the amount of people who can be in the shop at one time and cutting back the number of volunteers. While McPherson notes that these changes are unfortunate, she said they have still been able to serve their clients well enough.

The local food bank also has some assistance coming its way in the form of a state grant. McPherson explained that the food bank applied for and was approved for a grant through the Montana Department of Commerce. Though the actual receipt of the grant has taken some time due to what she was told is a large volume of grants being processed at this time, McPherson is expecting to receive it within the next week.

According to state records, the Dawson County Food Bank was approved for a $30,000 Food Pantry and Food Bank Assistance grant on Oct. 7.

There may also be more federal assistance coming. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a proposed stimulus plan worth $908 billion. If this is passed, the plan includes funding for services such as schools, small business and local governments and other services that could also include food banks.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview. com.

“Our community has been amazing with monetary or food donations, especially this time of year. It seems the end of October to the end of February (the community) is very giving,” Amber McPherson, food bank manager