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More Montana Kids Eating Summer Meals

Montana Summer Food Service Program sees most successful year yet in 2018

Thursday, December 6, 2018/Categories: Former Governors/Tags:

Governor Steve Bullock and the Office of Public Instruction today announced the Montana Summer Food Service Program saw its most successful year yet in 2018, with the total number of meals served to kids increasing by over 150,000 since Montana No Kid Hungry began tracking the impact of summer meal efforts in 2014. The Summer Food Service Program is a federal child nutrition program operated by the Office of Public Instruction.


“My wife, Lisa, and I have made it a priority to ensure that Montana kids are getting the nutrition they need while in school and during the summer months,” said Governor Bullock. “More meals being served during summer break means that more kids are ready for school where they can thrive academically and physically, and ultimately, be better set up for success all throughout their lives.”


“Continuous learning throughout the summer ensures that Montana students enter the fall school semester prepared to succeed,” said Superintendent Arntzen. “Learning cannot occur if a child is hungry. I am proud that the OPI and partner organizations across Montana are preparing more students for success during the summer months.”


Recently released data from the Montana Office of Public Instruction shows that a total of 700,730 nutritious meals were served to kids across Montana this past summer season. That is a record number of meals served from June through August, beating the 2017 total by nearly 70,000 meals and increasing by 11%.


The program is also supported through private grant funding from Montana No Kid Hungry, in a public-private partnership with Governor and First Lady Bullock, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, and Share Our Strength (a national non-profit). Grant funds offered by Montana No Kid Hungry are awarded to schools and community organizations across the state to support innovative solutions to reach more kids and teens. Funding for summer meal grants is made possible through support from private donors, including the Walmart Foundation, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, BNSF Railway, and Round It Up Montana (a partnership between the MT Restaurant and Retail Associations, Prostart, and No Kid Hungry).


In addition to supporting fixed meal sites, Montana No Kid Hungry grant funds have gone towards funding a total of seven mobile summer meal sites across the state, three of which were launched this past summer. This innovative service model makes summer meals more fun and brings the food to kids, which helps to address any challenges with transportation. The seven Montana communities operating a summer food truck or trailer are Browning, Helena, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell, Missoula and Sidney.


This year’s rankings of top summer meal sponsors based on additional meals served compared to 2017 and increase in participation are listed in the tables below.

Number of Summer Meals Served Graph


Top 5 sponsors by additional meals served compared to 2017




Billings Public Schools



Missoula Food Bank



Lame Deer Public Schools



Gallatin Valley Food Bank



Fort Peck Tribes





Top 5 sponsors by increase in participation




Lame Deer Public Schools



MT Tech – University of MT



Boulder Elementary



Fort Peck Tribes



Bridger K-12 Schools





Anyone interested in starting a new Summer Food Service Program, launching a Summer Food Truck, improving an existing program, or for questions about upcoming grant opportunities, can contact the OPI’s School Nutrition Director Christine Emerson at or 406-444-2502, or the Montana No Kid Hungry Summer Meal and Nutrition Coordinator Danielle Anderson at or 406-765-3430.




Stories from Montana Food Service Program Sites


Child Nutrition Programs Coordinator for Gallatin Valley Food Bank in Bozeman, Lyra Leigh-Nedbor, contributes the success of their Summer Meals program to a fantastic team of staff, volunteers, and partner organizations. “Bozeman is a dynamic and interesting community for summer meals,” Leigh-Nedbor shared. “The longevity of our program is in part due to the growing interest of organizations and businesses to support kid-friendly opportunities.” Gallatin Valley Food Bank served a total of 27,416 meals in summer 2018 after receiving a grant from Montana No Kid Hungry, which put the organization at 4th place in the statewide ranking for most additional meals served compared to 2017. 


“We know how valuable summer meals are to families and kiddos,” Leigh-Nedbor said. “We have heard that it relieves some of the stress parents feel leaving their children at home while they are at work, knowing that their kids can walk to a lunch site.” The value of summer meal programs exists in large and small communities, both urban and rural. Out of the top five organizations that saw the greatest increase in participation this summer, four are located in communities with a population of less than 3,000 people.


This year was Food Service Director Ethelene Stump’s first time managing the summer meal program in Lame Deer, a community that saw program participation increase by a whopping 135% this past summer. Stump attracted kids to the program by serving more homemade dishes that are well liked, such as bread baked from scratch. Simple changes like adding a second serving line help kids get their food faster. Larger scale innovations also helped increase participation. “Because it is so rural here, [the school board] made it possible for the buses to transport kids from their homes to the school for each meal we served,” Stump said. Lame Deer Public Schools served both Breakfast and Lunch to local kids throughout the summer months. Stump shared that, “A lot of grandparents are raising their grandchildren in Lame Deer, and the program helps relieve the financial burden put on grandparents.”


Both Billings and Fort Peck hosted a Prevention Resource Center AmeriCorps VISTA serving on a Montana No Kid Hungry project during summer 2018. These VISTAs helped to build capacity at a local level to expand participation at summer meal sites. The Missoula Food Bank was one of the sponsors awarded a large grant through Montana No Kid Hungry to launch a summer food truck. Boulder Elementary School District received a small grant from Montana No Kid Hungry. 



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