HELENA — Advocates say there was a giant enhance in folks looking for assist from Montana meals pantries up to now yr. Now they’re supporting a proposed new grant program aimed toward creating new partnerships to carry contemporary native produce to households in want.

“Individuals are actually enthusiastic about what this might do for our state,” stated Lorian Burhop, chief coverage officer for the Montana Meals Financial institution Community.

MFBN endorses Home Invoice 276, sponsored by Rep. Marty Malone, R-Pray. The invoice would set up a Farm to Meals Financial institution program by which organizations would function “meals hubs” to make agreements to buy Montana-grown meals and distribute it to meals pantries of their areas.

This system will cowl fruits, greens, meats, legumes, complete grains, eggs and dairy merchandise from Montana farms and ranches, in addition to meals with substances primarily grown in Montana.

HB 276 would supply $1 million in state funding for the subsequent two years.

“There may be a number of curiosity. there are already many roles in native communities,” Burhop stated. “However funding is usually missing. So to have two years of state funding to assist carry this out, to indicate what a actuality this may be for our state, I believe that can assist encourage further personal assist, public assist, to really make it occur. partnership going ahead, say that is good for Montana.”

Burhop stated the necessity for meals pantries first elevated throughout the pandemic, then decreased because the COVID-related reduction packages went into impact. He stated that the completion of those packages, mixed with the rise in inflation, led to a different enhance. MFBN knowledge exhibits almost 44,000 households used Montana meals pantries in November 2022, up from 29,000 in November 2021.

“The numbers in Montana’s meals pantries proper now are at or above the place we noticed them again in March 2020, and it appears to be extra secure proper now,” Burhop stated. “It wasn’t only a collision after which backing off. month after month these numbers stay excessive.

Proponents of HB 276 say it is not going to solely present much-needed contemporary meals to these households, but in addition broaden the marketplace for Montana farms and ranches.

“If a farmer has extra vegatables and fruits, he can take them and market them to a neighborhood meals financial institution that is close by, shops all his produce within the neighborhood, in the neighborhood the place it is simpler to maintain contemporary,” Jasmine Krotkov stated. Montana Farmers Union lobbyist. “And it is a dependable marketplace for them.”

Krotkov stated the invoice would carry many advantages to rural communities.

“Farm communities in Montana have the identical struggles as different rural communities, and starvation might be a problem there,” he stated. “So it is useful for farmers to have a spot to promote their merchandise, and to have a spot for them. place to entry produce that they do not develop on their farm.”

HB 276 is scheduled for a primary listening to Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 PM within the Home Agriculture Committee.

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