MISSOULA – Squeezed for space — and facing a growing demand for help from across the state — leaders of the Montana Food Bank Network are asking for the state to help fund a study into building a new headquarters.
You know what it’s like running out of kitchen counter space when you bring the groceries home and try to unload them. Imagine doing that every week with millions of pounds of groceries.
That’s the challenge for the Montana Food Bank Network which has received approval from Missoula County to submit a Community Development Block Grant application to the state to pay for a preliminary architectural report.
“Basically what they’ll do is assess our current facility, our projections for growth, determine what kind of facility will meet our needs into the future. And then we’ll take a look at our existing facilities here to see something can be renovated to fit our needs, or whether we need to look at property to build from the ground up,” Montana Food Bank Executive Officer Gayle Carlson explained.
Carlson says as the demand for food assistance to help the hungry across Montana has grown in recent years, so has the squeeze on the Montana Food Bank Network’s warehouse.
There’s also concern that could be a bottleneck for receiving shipments and donations of food which are then redistributed to food banks and pantries all over the state.
“It has been. And we’ve been kind of monitoring it for the last couple of years, just to see [the] capacity of our warehouse at any given time. Are we turning loads down because we lack the facilities to be able to handle it at that time? And we are starting to run into some real logistical issues as to where we can place things, how much we can take in?” Carlson said.
“Can we take it at this time? Will it be available later? So we’re being forced into asking ourselves those questions on a regular basis now, which means that our warehouse facility is not adequate for what we’re doing,” she added.
It’s not just the warehouse. Montana Food Bank Network now fits 20-employees in its small center west of Missoula, and that’s also limiting plans to add people to handle the agency’s expanding mission.
“One of the problems that we run into is we can’t grow any more from a staffing standpoint in order to reach into some of those very remote areas,” Carlson said. “So we’re having to do some really creative approaches into reaching into the eastern side of the state.”
Carlson expects it will take about a year to finish the architectural report, which will also develop cost estimates of building a new headquarters.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News