Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hunger in the Flathead

If you don't already know it, many of these people are already working at least one low paying job here.

Flathead agencies serving the poor struggle to keep up
In the proverbial sense, Lori Botkin is crying over spilled milk.

As director of the Flathead Food Bank, it’s Botkin’s job to see that the food bank’s five branch pantries provide nutritious food to the Flathead’s poorest residents. Milk is one of the basics, but a large supplier has dried up.

This year, the food bank has gotten 62,000 fewer pounds of food from area grocery stores that have long provided products a day or two past the expiration date.

Most of the decreased poundage is milk that’s no longer flowing.

“It’s a liability issue for grocery stores and it’s unfortunate,” Botkin said, explaining that grocery stores simply don’t want to risk getting sued by providing outdated food. “My milk purchase has more than doubled. I’ve spent $10,000 on milk this year.”

And with milk prices hovering around $3 a gallon these days, the food bank’s budget isn’t stretching as far as it used to.

In addition to the decrease in grocery-store donations, Flathead Food Bank is short nearly 20,000 pounds this year from private donations. Yet the food bank has given out 708 more food baskets this year than at this point in 2006.

“Fortunately our monetary donations are up a little this year,” Botkin said.

Trying to find enough food for the food bank’s 250 families every week is a constant struggle.

“THE NEED will grow,” predicted June Munski-Feenan, the tireless coordinator of the North Valley Food Bank in Whitefish. “There are a lot of single parents and just plain low-income folks. We’re in a wealthy area, but it’s two classes almost.”

The Whitefish-based food bank has its own wild game processing center, where fresh road-killed animals are cut and wrapped.

“We’re the only one doing wild game,” Munski-Feenan said proudly. “We’ve got the crew. Hill Brothers [towing company] loads the big animals. They’re super.”