Governor Steve Bullock today joined Montana No Kid Hungry, BNSF Railway, and the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation in conjunction with Montana Rail Link to kick off the summer meal program in Kalispell and highlight the importance that every kid gets the nutrition they need during the summertime.
“Kids who eat well during the summer come back to school ready to learn, but the summer months can pose challenges for kids who utilize school meal programs,” said Governor Bullock. “I appreciate the support of private and public partners all across Montana who recognize that closing the summer meal gap and providing food all year round will better set our kids up for success and get us closer to making no kid hungry a reality.”
The Summer Food Service Program is a federal nutrition program, administered by the Office of Public Instruction, where kids and teens ages 18 and younger can go to a site, eat a quality meal, and participate in fun activities at no cost. Through a grant from Montana No Kid Hungry, Kalispell launched a Summer Food Truck this year to serve summer meals at six additional locations. The new mobile truck will allow the Summer Food Service Program to reach even more children in the community who may not have a means of transportation to get to a stationary meal site.
Through a partnership with Governor Bullock, the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), Office of Public Instruction (OPI), and the national non-profit organization Share Our Strength, Montana No Kid Hungry has worked to increase the number of summer meal sites in Montana.
In 2017, 50 new sites were added, existing sites increased operating days by 7%, and a total of 632,654 meals were served. Currently, 71% of Montana counties operate at least one Summer Meal site for a total of 239 sites throughout the state. Sites are located in schools, parks, churches, libraries, YMCAs/YWCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, and community centers. Families can find sites nearest to them by visiting https://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks or texting “Food” to 877-877.
Generous contributions from private donors have also supported the increase in summer meal sites, as well as access to food during the school year, such as through Governor and First Lady Bullock’s Breakfast after the Bell initiative in partnership with No Kid Hungry.
“We couldn’t be happier to join Governor Bullock and the First Lady as they tackle this important issue,” said Zak Andersen, President, BNSF Railway Foundation. “The No Kid Hungry program has demonstrated tremendous success in reaching kids in need, and we’re pleased we could support their efforts to reduce child hunger in Montana.”
“We know from all of the research that educational achievement is directly tied to access to nutritious meals. Kids who are hungry have a difficult time concentrating and performing at the level of which they are capable,” said Mike Halligan, Executive Director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. “No Kid Hungry’s Breakfast After the Bell program spearheaded by Governor Bullock and Lisa Bullock has taken on the ambitious goal of making sure that every child has access to a healthy meal and we are proud to partner with them and other donors.”
Seven DPHHS Prevention Resource Center AmeriCorps VISTAs serving with Montana No Kid Hungry across the state in Kalispell, Butte, Billings, Hardin, Helena, Plentywood, and Poplar are building capacity and infrastructure in schools and other community organizations to improve food access and healthy eating habits during the summertime and year-round.