Pantry Partners is in a great situation. The Stevensville food bank wants the community to know that there is plenty of food available for anyone who needs it.
“Through the wonderful generosity of the Bitterroot, we have an abundance of donated food,” says Karen Sanchez, vice president of the board of directors. “What we’re trying to convey is that we have enough for everyone.”
During the pandemic, contributions to the food bank have actually increased, with extra support coming from the CARES Act, the Montana Food Bank Network, and private donations.
“The best thing that could happen to us,” said Dr. Steven Watters, board president, “is that we go out of business.” He added, however, that that will never happen, as there will always be some people in our community experiencing food insecurity. The food bank wants to make sure those people know there is help available, and to not be shy about asking for it.
During January through March of 2020, 195 households received food assistance through Pantry Partners. During the same period this year, that figure dropped to 94. Sanchez said that Hamilton and Darby food banks were experiencing a similar phenomenon. Watters and Sanchez theorized that it could be due to the extra help available through the government due to COVID-19, but they said when that comes to an end they will still be here, ready to help.
Watters noted that Pantry Partners has implemented a number of COVID-19 protocols that will remain in place for at least the near future in order to keep both volunteers and clients safe and healthy.
“We have taken care to protect our people,” said Watters. All volunteers who come in contact with anyone are required to wear masks. Food pick-up is through a drive-up service. People come in one at a time, determine what they need and place their order, then go back to their car while volunteers fill the order and bring it out to the car. Watters said that all their volunteers have been vaccinated as well.
Sanchez said that, because of the generosity of local donors as well as grants, the food bank has been able to increase the amount of food they give out, both weekly and monthly. In addition to the usual canned and dry goods, the Pantry gives out fresh milk, eggs, bread, meat and produce weekly.
They always welcome donations of farm eggs and local produce. Sanchez said that last week, for example, they received and gave out 63 dozen eggs from local producers.
They are not able to take any opened items, but they can take personal hygiene items to supplement food boxes, such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, shaving cream, etc.
Pantry Partners Food Bank is located at 3614 ALC Way, Stevensville, just off Middle Burnt Fork Road. Days and hours of operation are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Watters said that anyone who has had recent surgery or just can’t get out of the house for whatever reason can call and place an order for home delivery. The number is 777-0351 (leave a message).
“We just don’t want to miss anybody,” said Watters.