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Mission Valley food banks meet surge in demand to help people

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LAKE COUNTY – Local food banks are seeing a surge in need due to the financial hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We have seen about a 20 percent increase in registrations,” said Mary Martin, operations manager of Polson Loaves and Fish Pantry. “It started as soon as the schools shutdown and the shelter in place orders began.” 

She said many clients were not able to work as businesses closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and many of those people have children, who are also home all day because the schools were also shut down, which created an increase in grocery costs. Food banks were seeing an increased need last month. 

“In March, we also had an increase,” said Bread Basket chairman Patti Mocabee. “We helped more than 180 families during the month of March.”

Mocabee said that before the stay-at-home order, her nonprofit served about 160 families in Ronan, Pablo, Charlo and Moiese each month.

“We provide the basic food necessities: peanut butter, bread, meat, dairy, flour, soup, canned vegetables and fruit and fresh vegetables and fruits. Recently, we have doubled the amount of everything we give out,” Mocabee said.  

Both food pantries are doing everything they can to help distribute groceries to anyone affected by the pandemic. They ask people to follow social distancing procedures as they pick up or drop off donations. 

Food banks have also seen a rise in donations as neighbors work together to help each other get through the crises. “The donations from individuals, community and several grant organizations have been extremely generous,” said Mocabee. “The local grocery stores have been very generous, too.” 

Martin shared her appreciation for the community on Facebook: “This community is overwhelmingly concerned about their neighbors and has been so very thoughtful in their donations. We are incredibly grateful.” 

Anyone needing food assistance or wanting to donate is encouraged to contact one of the local food pantries. The Ronan Bread Basket is located at 10 6th Ave. SW. They can be reached by phone at 406-676-4357 and are open on Tuesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a lunch break from 12 to 12:30 p.m.

The Polson Loaves and Fish Pantry is located at 904 1st St. East and can be contacted by phone at 406-883-6864. They are open on Monday from 8:30 to 11 a.m.; Tuesday from 2 to 5:45 p.m.; closed Wednesday; Thursday from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.; closed Saturday and Sunday.

The Mission Valley Food Pantry is located in St. Ignatius at 203 Blaine St. They can be contacted by phone at 406-745-5448, and they are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday. 

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