Kalispell Public School District Receives $15,000 Grant for Free Meal Program

District is distributing 2,500-3,000 meals per day to local families in need during school closures

By Myers Reece
Rankin Elementary School in Kalispell. Beacon File Photo

A $15,000 grant will support Kalispell Public Schools’ food-service program, which is serving between 2,500 and 3,000 free meals a day to local families, up from about 900 per day during the first week of coronavirus-caused school closures.

Gov. Steve Bullock, his wife Lisa and Montana No Kid Hungry jointly announced the grant on April 16, saying the money will help Kalispell Public Schools’ continued work to reach families in need during the public-health crisis.

“Access to nutritious meals for families is critical throughout the year and especially during this difficult time,” Gov. Bullock said. “We’re fortunate that Montana No Kid Hungry is there to partner with our local communities. I thank all the schools and communities across the state that are stepping up to meet the needs of our children.”

Kalispell’s public school district offers free meals to families with children age 18 and under, available for pickup at various locations Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Families get lunch for that day and breakfast for the next morning.

Jana Graham, food service director for Kalispell Public Schools, said the grant will help pay for food, packaging and staff payroll.

“This grant will make a huge difference in the community,” Graham said.

“When school closures were announced, our team moved quickly to respond,” she added. “We know how important our role is to deliver nutritious food to the kids who normally rely on school meals as well as families who have a new need as a result of coronavirus-related challenges.”

Graham complimented her staff’s efforts to prepare high-quality food.

“We’ve had sub sandwiches, chicken spaghetti, burritos — things that they can heat up at home so they’re not just having a ham and cheese sandwich every day,” she said. “Our bakers are making homemade muffins and cookies.”

Graham said community feedback has been inspiring.

“There was a mom talking about how grateful she was,” Graham said. “She had four boys, and she said whenever they had leftover veggies from our lunches they would set them aside to make a big pot of soup for dinner. They had some apples leftover, so they made a pie. I’ve received emails and people driving by every day saying how much they appreciate the help and how much it means for their family.”

Montana No Kid Hungry is a public-private partnership between Bullock’s office, the Department of Public Health and Human Services and the national nonprofit Share Our Strength.

Montana No Kid Hungry is offering “real-time funding and assistance” for school and community organizations working to provide access to meals for kids during school closures. The emergency grants support local efforts such as home-delivered meals, grab-and-go meal programs, school and community pantries, backpack programs “and other steps to help reach children and families who lose access to meals.”

“Montana No Kid Hungry is continuously reviewing coronavirus relief grant applications from schools and organizations statewide, and expects more funding to be awarded,” the press release stated.

“When faced with difficult challenges, Montana communities rally around each other to support residents,” First Lady Lisa Bullock said. “The way Kalispell Public Schools has responded is a great example of how the entire state is working together to meet the needs of our friends and neighbors.”

Other local school districts also have free meal programs. Visit their websites and social media to find out more information.

The Kalispell school district posts meal pickup locations and weekly menus on its website at www.sd5.k12.mt.us/.