Today the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation announced the distribution of a special holiday donation of $201,500 to 73 food banks, food pantries, rescue missions and homeless shelters across Montana.
“Tragically, too many Montanans, day to day, must choose between paying rent or utilities and purchasing food for their families,” Foundation Executive Director Mike Halligan said. “Since the Foundation’s inception, it has been focused on giving youth and their families the tools they need to be successful. That starts with the security of knowing where your next meal is coming from.”
The number of hungry people in Montana continues to be a serious concern and has not reduced significantly in the last several years. However, poverty numbers alone do not reflect the number of people who are struggling to find enough food.
Nationwide, the data consistently shows that unless a family’s income reaches 185% or higher of the poverty level, they are considered food insecure, meaning they are unable to buy enough food for their families and are at risk of hunger. Based on the 2014 data, there are 335,092 people living at or below 185% of poverty in Montana, and this number is slightly above the number for 2013. Of the people living at 185% of poverty, 89,182 are children and 45,341 are seniors. When an individual or family has problems accessing adequate and nutritious food, it results in a multitude of negative impacts.
“Winter and holiday seasons are a particularly challenging time for struggling families,” Montana Food Bank Network CEO Gayle Gifford said. “Thanks to the Washington Foundation, the Montana Food Bank Network and partner agencies throughout the state can step up their efforts giving help, and hope, to those in need.”
With these figures in mind, the Foundation’s holiday giving program wraps up a year of prioritized giving by the Foundation to basic needs organizations across the state that are working to better the lives of Montanans.
“Small local food banks such as ours are always eager to receive recognition in form of grants and donations,” Helping Hands in Hardin’s Linda Conner said. “We see more and more working families needing our assistance in stretching their food dollars, and organizations such as the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation are an integral part in helping us meet our mission of ‘Fighting Hunger for all in Big Horn County.’”