Each May, the Montana Food Bank Network hosts a conference to provide training, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities for their Network Partners. We had a great time co-presenting a breakout session with Helena Food Share at this year’s forum held last week on May 24th. Attendees at our session learned all about the MT Harvest of the Month Program; the nutritional, educational, and community benefits to serving local food; and our pilot project to bring these benefits to more food pantries across Montana.
Jami Kirksey and Kara Snyder are the leaders of Helena Food Share’s Harvest of the Month pilot program. The two shared tips from engaging food pantry donors to befriending your extension office with attendees looking to start or grow a farm to plate program. Helena Food Share believes that partnerships with local producers is a natural extension of their commitment to sharing food.
Since the Helena Food Share received a generous donation from the City of Helena in the form of a fabulous new Charlie Cart, their capacity to implement MT Harvest of the Month has grown! They have since been holding cooking and tasting demonstrations and partnering with local chefs to showcase nutritious and delicious recipes featuring Montana-grown foods with the goals to:
- Further break down the stigma of need and be community advocates for fresh, locally grown foods.
- Encourage community members to choose fresh options over processed and prepackaged foods (shop for nutritional benefit rather than quick calories).
- Help neighbors reduce reliance on emergency food assistance by teaching fundamental cooking skills to stretch food and create more nutritious meals.
- Introduce new, hard to distribute, food in a pantry.
- Demonstrate connections between where food comes from and how it affects health.
- Build and strengthen partnerships within the community to increase local food access.
- Reduce waste in the current food distribution system.