Going into the busiest time of the year, the food bank will be holding a food and coat drive
By Jack Reney STAFF EDITOR
Community need for the Big Sky Food Bank has more than tripled in the summer of 2022 compared to the previous summer. All seasons combined, the overall need has increased by 60% compared to 2021.
“In the past, the data shows that most people used the food bank one, two, or even three times a year,” said Sarah Gaither Bivins, director of operations and navigator of food bank services. “Now in the current climate, people just can’t make it through the end of the month with their paycheck. Before COVID, we used to allow people to shop once a month, although we never turned anyone away. Now you can shop up to once a week if you need to.
Seniors have shown a particular increase in visits, Bivins said, and nearly half of their customers work at Big Sky but live in Bozeman, Belgrade or even Amsterdam and Manhattan.
“The workforce can’t live here anymore, you know,” she said.
She said that while the 250% increase still indicates critical need, this statistic is also inflated by the strong growth of Big Sky’s summer tourism, which has created more summer jobs to meet the growing interest in mountain biking and hiking.
The Big Sky Food Bank and Community Resource Center is part of the Montana Food Bank Network and is located just north of Big Sky on Highway 191. Everyone is welcome to pick up food once a week, and new visitors will be prompted to register basic demographic information. . Bivins said it was helpful that the site was located away from the city center because food security is a sensitive issue. But as inflation in consumer goods and the cost of living continue to challenge many Big Sky residents, visiting the food bank has become more common since 2020.
Fall is the busiest season, Bivins said. Many winter seasonal workers arrive early, often having reduced savings to relocate and facing limited full-time work opportunities as ski tourism slowly expands in December.
On October 22, the food bank will prepare for a busy season with their annual Great Pumpkin Giveaway, a canned food drive. Bivins and his staff spread a patch of pumpkins around the Fire Pit Park in downtown, allowing families to choose a pumpkin in exchange for donating food.
“In the past, we haven’t really pushed the canned food collection part,” she said. “This year we’re trying to say, you know, 10-15 cans would be really nice to have. Get a crate of soup from COSTCO and bring it in in exchange for a pumpkin.
Bivins has seen a decrease in canned food donations over the past year.
These canned options are especially valuable, as many food bank visitors only have access to a microwave for cooking. Ace Hardware in Big Sky donates 100 slow cookers each year to help provide another kitchen tool.
Many winter workers also move here not realizing how freezing the weather is getting, she said. The bank accepts coats and winter clothing and holds an annual coat drive in late fall.
“We don’t need children’s coats,” she said. “People spend their money on children first. But [parents will] get stuff for themselves here for sure.
Over the past year, the food bank has offered services such as laundry for $1 a load and access to a computer and printer. These services are open at regular hours, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Anyone can also make an appointment to sit down with Bivins and complete food stamp applications under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nationwide low-income energy assistance program. of the State (LIEAP), and receive support for job applications.
Bivins is the only full-time staff member, with two part-time employees and other volunteer opportunities available.