HELENA — For thousands of people in the Helena area, the next meal is not guaranteed, and according to Helena Food Share officials, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made that a reality for more people.
“It’s just this definite need that people are saying ‘we don’t have enough to put food on our table, and I want to make sure my kids are fed,’” Helena Food Share executive director Bruce Day said.
Day said through 2020, the Helena Food Share served an average 1,250 households a month in the Helena area. Each month, about 110 of those were new families needing help for the first time—that is a 40-percent increase from the 2019 monthly new client average. Food Share officials said it is the most dramatic increase they have seen, higher than the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009.
While hunger is invisible, Helena Food Share volunteers see its impact first-hand.
“I knew it was here, but I didn’t know how prevalent it was,” volunteer Bob Levitan said. “It’s pretty incredible how much hunger is out there.”
Levitan started volunteering with the Helena Food Share four years ago. Since then, he’s done a little of everything—worked in the pantry, helped with the Kid Packs program and handed out goods for the Senior Commodities program.
Levitan said he keeps coming back because he enjoys both the clients and his fellow volunteers.
“Everyone has difficulties now and again,” Levitan said. “I’m glad that we’re here and we can help out.”
Levitan is not the only one who has continued to help the Helena Food Share through the pandemic, Day said the Helena community has stepped up with donations.
“We have been really fortunate, the community has been very generous,” Day said. “People in Helena want to help their neighbors, they want to make sure no one goes hungry.”
Even when the pandemic ends, hunger will not go away. Day said about one in seven people in the Helena area experience hunger, and the Helena Food Sharewill continue to try and meet that need.
“We’re just really thankful and grateful the community is supporting us and making sure there is food for their neighbors,” Day said.
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