One gauge of how deeply inflation is affecting our community is a startling statistic from the Missoula Food Bank.

KGVO News reached out to Kelli Hess, Interim Co-Executive Director of the Missoula Food Bank on Friday and received some startling, though not unexpected news. Due to stress in the economy, more and more families are leaning on the Food Bank than ever before.

“Five years ago, when we moved into what we call new food bank, a busy day for us was around 200 households coming through our doors,” began Hess. “Those were really the top numbers that we were seeing. And now pretty regularly we are seeing over 400 households a day. So many more families and neighbors are using our services. To put that in perspective of what that means for our community, it's one out of four people in our community that is using the Missoula Food Bank right now.”

Hess said if not for the sheer generosity of the western Montana community, the food bank would never be able to serve that many families.

“We feel so lucky that our community is so generous and has been supporting us throughout the entire history of the food bank,” she said. “Right now volunteers play a really heavy role just to be able to keep up and keep the food on our shelves and then also really community donations keep coming in. However, with these numbers, there is real concern about how are we going to be able to keep it up; and that's just the truth of it.”

Hess said clients that use the food bank understand that the food items they take home are like emergency rations.

“We know the work that we're doing and the groceries that families are getting when they walk through our doors are temporary,” she said. “This is emergency food assistance. This is short-term, right? The customer that is shopping right now will fill their cart and get some groceries that will last for the next few days, but we also want to play our part and do what we can to connect people to other resources that might have a longer-term impact.”

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Hess said the food bank staff knows that children make up a large part of their ‘customer base’, and they do everything they can to make children feel welcome when they visit.

“If you happen to be a dad that's walking through the door or caregiver that’s walking through the door with some little kiddos, we have our ‘Empower Place’ right here on site and so kids are welcome to come and play in that space,” she said. “During the summertime, we're offering breakfast lunch, and supper if that happens to be the time of day, so they can sit there and have a good meal and then play and have a great time while parents are shopping in our grocery store.”

Hess said there are hundreds of stories of how men and women took advantage of the food bank’s services who later became donors and volunteers in order to give back to the community that helped them through hard times.

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