With school out for the summer, Governor Steve Bullock and First Lady Lisa Bullock today announced that a total of $50,000 in private grant funding has been awarded to 15 organizations across the state to help with the cost of operating a local Summer Food Service Program.
“When school gets out each year, Montana students still need access to healthy meals, learning opportunities, and social interactions,” Governor Bullock said. “The summer meal program fills that need and ensures kids have the potential for a happy and healthy break.”
“Summer meals give every child peace of mind knowing they will be able to really flourish once they return to school again in the fall,” said First Lady Bullock. “I’m grateful for the Montanans all across the state who put in the hard work to set up sites and connect children and families to this opportunity.”
Summer Meal Programs give children in Montana access to healthy meals during the summer months, and many local programs offer fun and educational activities that keep kids mentally and socially active. According to a report from the national nonprofit Share Our Strength, children who do not get proper nutrition during summer break return to school two months behind in reading compared to their peers. For each child that experiences summer learning loss due to poor nutrition, their school will spend an additional $1,540 in re-teaching that student skills from the previous year.
Grant funding is awarded by Montana No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit housed under the Department of Public Health and Human Services in a unique public-private partnership. All grant funding comes from generous private donations. The 15 organizations that received summer meal grants during this cycle include:
- Boys & Girls Club of Dawson County, Glendive, $3,000
- Kalispell Public Schools, Kalispell, $2,965
- Missoula Food Bank, Missoula, $2,000
- Action Inc, Butte, $3,000
- Anaconda Family Resource Center/Boys and Girls Club Deer Lodge County, Anaconda, $5,400
- Boys and Girls Club of Lewistown, Lewistown, $1,500
- Dixon School District #9, Dixon, $1,000
- Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead, Whitefish, $14,100
- Great Falls Public Schools, Great Falls, $2,000
- Human Resource Development Council District IX, Bozeman, $2,400
- Livingston School District 4 & 1, Livingston, $3,000
- Plentywood School District #20, Plentywood, $1,750
- Rocky Boy School District 87 J & L, Box Elder, $3,250
- Somers Lakeside School District 29, Somers, $2,635
- St. Regis School District #1, Saint Regis, $2,000
Karla Aus, a staff member for the Summer Meal Program in Plentywood, highlighted the importance of summer meals in rural Montana by sharing, “We’re doing fun things, active things. We’re getting kids off their screens and away from the digital world. It’s a great social opportunity for them.” Plentywood operated a program privately last year and will officially become a Summer Food Service Program sponsor in 2019 with a grant to host nine weeks of daily activities like gardening, art projects, and visits from local firefighters and police officers.
Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead, a food education and access nonprofit based out of Whitefish, received a grant this year to help with the purchase of a mobile meals van. “We are so excited to start the mobile meals route this year because Columbia Falls had a large gap in summer eating. We can’t wait to open up five new sites this year to close our hunger gap,” says Gretchen Boyer, Executive Director with Nourish the Flathead.
With the addition of the new van, it’s estimated that the number of summer meals served in the Flathead region will increase by 2,500. There are currently eight communities operating mobile meal sites throughout Montana: Kalispell, Missoula, Helena, Browning, Billings, Sidney, Great Falls, and the Flathead area. Each year more Montana communities are turning to food trucks, trailers, buses and vans to reach more kids, since many children in rural areas lack a means of transportation to fixed sites.
Through Montana No Kid Hungry, 2019 Summer Meals grants are made possible by donations from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, BNSF Railway Foundation, Walmart, Town Pump Foundation, and Round It Up Montana (a partnership between the Montana Retail and Restaurant Associations, ProStart, and Montana No Kid Hungry). The Summer Food Service Program is administered by the Office of Public Instruction and cost of food is reimbursed to the operating organization through USDA funds.
Anyone interested in starting a new Summer Meal Program, launching a Summer Food Truck, improving an existing program, or for questions about upcoming grant opportunities, contact Danielle Anderson, Summer Meal and Nutrition Coordinator for Montana No Kid Hungry, at DAnderson3@mt.gov or by phone at 406-765-3430.