By Emily Wolfe
Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BIG SKY – Hunger and food insecurity impacts people in all walks of life, around the country, and Big Sky is not immune.
Open since last fall, the Big Sky Community Food Bank served 114 people in 95 households during its first year, according to Diane Bartzick, a member of its six-member advisory board. Operating along with the Gallatin Valley Food Bank under the nonprofit Human Resources Development Council, the BSCFB depends on financial and volunteer support from the community.
This fall, it got a boost when one local business, Pretty Paws, held a drive that collected 187.5 pounds of food.
That’s enough to feed seven people for 30 days, said Sarah Gaither, the food bank’s new hire this fall.
BSCFB’s first employee, Gaither is working three days a week managing the facility in with help from the GVFB.
“Sarah is going to be the face of the Big Sky Food Bank in town, representing us, coordinating volunteers, keeping tabs on what we need, and helping the executive board organize drives,” said advisory board member Lynne Anderson. “It’s a big deal to have a constant and she will be the constant.”
With Thanksgiving coming soon, as well as the influx of seasonal workers who likely won’t begin receiving paychecks for another few weeks, BSCFB is in need of some specific items, as well as monetary donations (see sidebar for details).
Last year its “Thanksgiving in a Bag” program provided holiday meals for 21 families, and this year, Bartzick said, BSCFB hopes to double that number.
Local philanthropists Kym and George Rapier already donated enough for 15 families, she said. To complete the goal, the food bank is accepting donations on site and at a number of barrels around town (see sidebar for locations).
For those without the capacity to cook, Anderson, who also owns the Country Market, will prepare turkeys to health board standards. To set this up, either call Anderson at (406) 581-5360 or stop by the store and ask for Lynne.
Bartzick encouraged locals to get involved with the next Pretty Paws food drive in Big Sky, Sunday, Nov. 24, also inviting school-aged children to come out and help, as well as high school students to use it to help fulfill their community service hours.
Next up will be the Turkey for a Ticket food drive, which is set for Friday, Dec. 13 this year and allows skiers to trade donations for lift tickets. Last year it collected just shy of 38,000 pounds of food for banks in Big Sky, Bozeman, West Yellowstone and Ennis, including 1,120 turkeys.
Looking forward this winter, BSCFB hopes to expand to offer prepared meals, Bartzick said, noting they hope to work alongside Kym Rapier’s efforts to enhance the Big Sky School District’s backpack program.
“Big Sky has been different, because many of the clientele there don’t have the ability to cook, [and are] using hot plates instead,” said Jill Holder, Operations Manager of the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. “What those folks need is not a pound of dried beans. They need more quick-cooking food.
“Every little bit helps. When food comes from all different directions, that is what makes a difference.”
Open Tuesdays 3-7 p.m. and Fridays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Big Sky Community Food Bank is located on U.S. Highway 191 in the Bighorn Shopping Center. Find more at bigskyfoodbank.org.
Turkey in a Bag
The Big Sky Community Food Bank’s second annual “Turkey in a Bag” food drive will take place on Sunday Nov. 24. Volunteers will be actively collecting donations door-to-door throughout the Southfork, Westfork, Meadow and Ramshorn. Others looking to donate can call the food bank to arrange a pick up time on this day.
Here are a few holiday items BSCFB is looking for:
Pumpkin pie ingredients
Bread and cooking instructions
To donate monetarily for Turkey in a Bag, send $25 to the food bank before Thanksgiving Day:
Big Sky Community Food Bank
P.O. Box 160965
Big Sky, MT, 59730
Drop points and regular donations
The food bank has collection barrels at the Country Market, the Post Office, the Big Sky Chapel, American Bank, Pretty Paws, Lone Peak Brewery, the school and outside the back door of the food bank.
To donate perishables outside of Food Bank hours (Tuesdays 3-7 p.m. and Fridays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.), bring them to the Country Market, where they will remain frozen for pickup.
Here are few items the food bank is consistently looking for:
Individually packaged frozen meats- ground beef, chicken or pork
Canned meats- tuna, chicken, sloppy Joes, pork and beans
Canned soups- vegetable soup, chowder, chicken noodle, etc.
Canned mixed vegetables
Canned mixed fruits
Rice, pasta and cereals
Boxed Mac n’ cheese
Meals/sides that are easily microwaveable