Food for All

Livingston Food Resource Center is a community hub of food distribution, culinary training, senior supper clubs, and many kids programs

By Mike Jopek

Michael McCormick, from the Livingston Food Resource Center, was in town earlier this month. The North Valley Food Bank and Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead recently hosted a community conversation about food at the Bohemian Grange Hall in Whitefish.

McCormick led Livingston’s move into a new 5,000-square-feet food resource center in the heart of their town. It’s a community hub of food distribution, culinary training, senior supper clubs, and many kids programs.

“Hunger is but one aspect of living in poverty,” says McCormick, who’s worked at the food pantry for nearly a decade. “We all have to eat.”

In Livingston the food pantry interviews clients and found out that more than a third suffer from diabetes.  The center now offers client food choice to help address chronic food-related diseases.

Inside the resource center is a 1,500-square- foot licensed commercial kitchen that allows for small batch cooking, meal preparation, and baking.

With bread sale revenues from places like local hospitals and restaurants, the center hired three bakers to run the operation that distributes the staple food to hungry clients. The bread, like much of the pantry, uses locally procured ingredients.

The big kitchen makes soups, stews, and pasta sauces for distribution through the pantry.

The center cooks five dinners every week for 40 seniors. Seniors microwave the dinners for four minutes. The meals require no cutting and are easy to chew.

The Livingston food center hosts a series of lunchtime seminars. Recently it held one on diet and nutrition for people undergoing chemotherapy and battling cancer.

McCormick gives people living in poverty more skills, more training. He works with local restaurants to figure out labor needs and then offers a nose-to-the-grindstone culinary class twice yearly for eight to nine students at the hub.

McCormick says the he focuses programs to help the locals whom are the most vulnerable amongst us. The food hub partnered with the Montana State University Extension Office to provide a couple of one-week food and cooking summer programs for kids age 6-10.

Livingston’s community food hub invested in commercial cooking equipment like slicers, dicers, steamers and much more to assure that people living in the area have access to nutritious food, regardless of income or labor skills.

The day after McCormick spoke with 30-plus Flathead community members, he met longer with the board of directors of the North Valley Food Bank.

On March 3, Farm Hands is helping host numerous food and agriculture workshops at the third annual Free the Seeds event.  Free the Seeds is held at the Flathead Valley Community College, in the Arts and Technology Building from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Go learn about soil nutrition from Heather Estrada who runs the FVCC agriculture program or learn about chickens from Susan Waite at EarthStar Farms. There are 20 free workshops this year. See www.freetheseedsmontana.com for details.

The seed swap portion is from 9 a.m. to noon. It was busy last year, and the year prior. Hundreds of locals swapped garden seeds, starts, scions and cuttings amongst themselves and their neighbor. For anyone who likes to get his or her hands into the dirt, it’s quite amazing really.

In Congress, the federal bill funding local programs like food pantries, supplemental nutritional food programs, and subsidized crop insurance for many farmers is to be reauthorized this year.

Judging how day-to-day everything in Washington feels, how could anyone think passing the next Farm Bill will be easy? Both Montana senators support the existing Farm Bill.

It seems reasonable to believe that with Sen. Jon Tester’s lifetime of hands-on farming experience in Big Sandy coupled with Sen. Steve Daines seat on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry that something positive could materialize.