MONTANA – Governor Steve Bullock and First Lady Lisa Bullock today announced that $83,750 through Montana No Kid Hungry has been awarded to 16 organizations to help with the cost of operating local summer meal programs across the state.
Summer Food Service Programs serve healthy food to kids while school is out. School meals are a main nutrition source for many Montana children, and summer meal programs help fill the food gap that’s left during summer months. Many sites also offer fun, educational activities to keep kids’ brains fed throughout summer.
“Ensuring access to healthy food for all Montanans has long been a priority and it’s particularly important as families across our state cope with the impacts of COVID-19,” Governor Bullock said. “This funding will allow the Summer Meals program to keep helping kids in Montana get nutritious meals even when school is out.”
According to Feeding America, nearly 170,000 Montanans could experience chronic hunger this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic – an increase of more than 60,000 people. This would increase the rate of food insecurity in Montana from 10 percent of the population to 16 percent.
“The Summer Meals program is an established solution to reducing childhood hunger in Montana,” First Lady Lisa Bullock said. “The ongoing work to end food insecurity through Montana No Kid Hungry is as critical as ever and will continue to be at the forefront of our efforts during this pandemic.”
Grant funding is awarded in partnership with Montana No Kid Hungry, a public-private partnership between Governor Bullock’s Office, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, and a national non-profit called Share Our Strength. All grant funding comes from generous private donations. The 16 organizations that received summer meal grants include:
- Belgrade School District - $3,000
- Bigfork ACES - $3,000
- Billings Family YMCA - $3,000
- Billings School District - $23,000
- Cascade Public Schools - $2,500
- Get Fit Great Falls - $10,765
- Poplar Health Promotion Disease Prevention - $15,000
- Human Resource Development Council District IX, Bozeman - $4,000
- Huntley Project Schools - $3,000
- Kalispell Public Schools - $3,000
- Missoula Food Bank - $3,000
- MSU Extension, Fort Belknap - $3,000
- Polson School District - $3,000
- Cascade Public School, Somers - $2,335
- Stevensville Public Schools - $650
- Terry Public School District - $1,500
Billings School District and Poplar Health Promotion Disease Prevention – recipients of the largest grant amounts – will be using funds to launch new mobile meals sites in the form of a food truck, trailer, or van.
Many of the summer meal program recipients will offer grab-and-go meals to their communities as social distancing practices continue.
“The food delivery does more than nourish the body,” said Rex Weltz, Superintendent of Polson School District, which received a $3,000 grant. “It feeds the mental well-being for many of our students.”
Weltz said he received a text message from a parent with a photo of a boy eagerly anticipating the arrival of the bus to deliver breakfast and lunch. “This truly shows the positive impact Summer Meals have on families,” Weltz said. “It’s the highlight of his day during social distancing and school closures."
The grant to the Billings School District is from First Interstate Bank in Billings and First Interstate Bank Foundation, the funding awarded to Poplar Health Promotion Disease Prevention is from the Steele-Reese Foundation, and the remaining $48,750 in grant funding comes from private donations to Montana No Kid Hungry, including from PacificSource, St. Vincent’s Healthcare, Town Pump Charitable Foundation, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, BNSF Railway and Round It Up Montana (a partnership between the Montana Restaurant Association, the Montana Retail Association, ProStart, and No Kid Hungry).
The Summer Food Service Program is administered by the Office of Public Instruction and the cost of food is reimbursed to the operating organization through USDA funds. The program is flexible, allowing all kids and teens up to 18 to get a meal and participate in activities at no cost and without completing any paperwork. To find a Summer Meal site near you, simply text the word “FOOD” to 877-877.
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.