Food Bank seeks donations for Thanksgiving, Christmas

Denise Hartse
Star Staff Writer

Volunteers at the Miles City Food Bank are working to fill the pantry shelves so there will be enough food to feed hungry families and individuals with a little extra to go around for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that are approaching.  

The Emergency Food Assistance Program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture distributes surplus commodities to the state and the state distributes them to the Montana Food Bank network based out of Missoula, said Bob Parker, director of the food bank.

“That’s the federal assistance we get,” Parker said. “We don’t get federal dollars directly. Our allotment of food is based on the number of clients we serve.”

Parker added that a good portion of the food the local food bank distributes in Miles City comes from nonperishable items and money given by local and area residents and businesses.

“One objection we get from people donating to the food bank is that we’re not  just providing food to people with low incomes,” said Belinda Forman, president of the Custer County Food Bank Board. “We also serve veterans; we serve seniors [senior citizens]; and our unemployed, who are typically the disabled or unemployable, and those working at Eastern Montana Industries. Many of the people who need the food bank’s services are people with kids.”

“People need to know how important the food bank is. We serve 300-plus families every month,” Forman added. 

She explained that many of those served only come to the food bank for food temporarily. “Many people only use the food bank’s services while they are getting back on their feet,” she said. “Many of these people are disabled or on Social Security and their money doesn’t go far enough each month. We help them.”

Parker explained that the Town Pump is again sponsoring its annual matching funds for food banks in Montana. The program started Sept. 1 and continues through November. Town Pump will match, dollar-for-dollar, funds contributed to food banks in Montana.

“We really appreciate cash donations directly to the Custer County Food Bank in September, October and November because we get matching grant dollars from Town Pump,” Parker said. “People can make donations directly to the Custer County Food Bank in Miles City and they will go to our food bank. I keep track of the donations, turn in receipts for the funds we receive here at our food bank and those dollars are matched by Town Pump. They stay in Miles City.”

For anyone wishing to donate funds to the food bank, cash or checks may be dropped off or mailed to the Custer County Food Bank, 210 S. Winchester Ave., Miles City, MT 59301. The food bank is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information call 406-234-3663.

Parker added that donations also may be made to Town Pump, which will be matched as well. However, those funds will be distributed around the state with only a portion of them returning to Miles City.

“In light of the season, we really need donations of turkeys during the next two months,” said Parker. “Turkeys are a big deal at the food bank this time of year. We provide baskets for our clients for Thanksgiving to make a holiday meal with items such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies and ingredients for pie. We also include extra items like pickles, olives, cranberry sauce, gravy or gravy mix and similar items to make an extra good-sized meal for a family. We also try to make up baskets for Christmas.”

Parker said that donations of turkeys have been low this year. “Donations of turkeys really help the food bank because if we have to purchase them, it costs around $4,000 to provide enough for our clients,” he added.

He explained that the food bank has freezer space available and that donations of hams and chickens also are much appreciated.

“The Thanksgiving and other holiday food is in addition to normal client distribution,” Parker added. “It doesn’t take the place of the regular disbursement for the food bank. It’s nice to be able to provide something extra for a special meal for a family or individual during the holidays.” 

(Contact Denise Hartse at or 406-234-0450.)