Food bank changes food distribution policy

Food for Thought
By Elle Ross / Helping Hands Exec. Dir.
Thursday, May 9, 2019
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As bright spring flowers are popping up, exciting news is blooming at Helping Hands. As many in our community know, our emergency food boxes are available for any household in Big Horn County meeting the income guidelines. This program has been the crux of our organization for many years and allots for three boxes per household each year.

However, life throughout the county has changed in access, needs, and families. From our role as a community food bank, we have seen this change in the number of household visits increasing each year from 1035, 1198, and 1406 households over the last three years. This could not be possible without the aid of grants, community donations, our incredible volunteers and board members, and the Montana Food Bank Network.

Through this support Helping Hands is ecstatic and proud to announce that we are updating our policies, too. We have officially increased the number of boxes available to households from three to 12 boxes a year.

This means that if needed, a household can come once a month, provided boxes are received 30 days apart. Helping Hands felt this was a necessary step in helping families meets their needs. We are a community organization, continually striving to listen, understand, and act. Input and partnerships are always welcome as increasing four times the number of boxes offered is no small task.

This policy shift may slightly effect how emergency food boxes are packed in the future, but we are confident in making sure our community is well fed. This could mean that customers will see a set amount or increase in food from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) paired with donated and purchased items. According to the USDA website, TEFAP “is a Federal program that helps supplement the diets of low-income Americans by providing them with emergency food assistance at no cost.”

Therefore, all of our Big Horn County residents receiving an emergency box are eligible for TEFAP.

Helping Hands has been enrolled in this program through the Montana Food Bank Network for many years. Through TEFAP we have been able to and will continue to supply customers with a variety of items ranging from frozen ground beef, chicken, blueberries, squash, to pears, applesauce, and juice.

We hope this increase to twelve boxes per year will continue to make strides to eradicate hunger in Big Horn County. This is one step towards feed our community and Helping Hands admires all the efforts throughout Big Horn County doing such amazing work. We continue to reexamine better ways to serve our community and welcome any input.

Elle Ross, Executive Director at Helping Hands Food Bank, also serves at the Farm to School Coordinator for the Hardin School District.