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Cub Scouts raise money to help food pantry

RONAN – Eight-year-old Cub Scout Tyler Miller, along with the rest of Ronan Wolf Pack 4956, collected food last Saturday to help the local food pantry provide regular emergency food for people in need.

“It’s a great project to help people that depend on the Bread Basket,” said Tyler. “It’s a polite and nice thing to do.” 

Ronan Wolf Pack 4956 stood behind a table at the Harvest Food grocery store to collect nonperishable food items. When people walked past, the boys said together “Do you want to help the Bread Basket?” Those smiling faces were hard to resist.

Many people asked the kids to wait for a moment while they bought a few cans of food to donate. Others dug out their wallets and handed the kids some unexpected cash. Within a few hours, they collected 406 pounds of food and $176 to donate to the food pantry. 

Robert Keenan, the pack’s den leader, said the troop will continue taking donations at their meeting place in a church located at 700 Fourth Ave. until Sunday, April 15. Donations can also be taken to the Bread Basket on Sixth Avenue. 

“I think we’ve asked maybe over 100 people to help, and they are helping,” said Elijah Bell, 8. “It feels good to help when people need it. It’s a nice project so the people will get some food. It’s mind blowing how good this is going.”

The troop decided to take on the project as one of their community services to earn an achievement belt loop for their uniform. They also said they wanted to do the project because they just like helping people.

Nate Alder, 8, said he felt like there are a lot of people who don’t have enough to eat. He was correct in his assumption. The Bread Basket reports that they help 500 people a month with emergency food assistance in Ronan, Charlo and Moiese. The volunteer staff opens the doors on Tuesday and Friday to collect donations and provide food for people who need it. More information can be found at www.ronanbreadbasket.org.

The Montana Food Bank Network provides guidelines and some food assistance to the local pantry along with about 140 other hunger-fighting organizations. MFBN hopes to end hunger in Montana through food acquisition and distribution, education and advocacy. 

According to MFBN, approximately one in eight Montanans struggle with hunger, including 45,000 children living in food insecure homes, which means they have an inability to access food in a consistent manner.

“While food banks and federal nutrition programs have made severe hunger and malnutrition rare in this country, millions of low-income Americans are still faced with food insecurity,” MFBN states. “Hunger is directly related to the larger problem of economic insecurity in our state. Low wages, job loss, and insufficient fixed incomes leave many families unable to keep food on the table while trying to afford the rising costs of housing, child care, and medical care.”

The Bread Basket reports that 30 percent of the people utilizing the food program have jobs but aren’t making enough to afford food with an income below the poverty line. Lake County has held a historically high poverty rate (21 percent in 2016) compared to the national average (13 percent). 

MFBN notes that hunger is “lurking around the doorsteps” in every neighborhood causing often unseen damage including health challenges like a weakened immune system and worsening of chronic health conditions. Hunger also impacts the state economically due to preventable health care costs, lower educational attainment, and lost productivity in the workforce.

The food network encourages people to sign up for public food programs such as SNAP, WIC, school breakfast, and Summer Food Service Program through the local health department. MFBN notes that many people don’t sign up due to confusion about eligibility and a stigma about participating in public programs. MFBN provides information on those programs and assistance with the application process. An outreach coordinator can be reached at 406-239-6475. 

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