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This could be the year of the great turkey shortage.

Both the Gallatin Valley Food Bank and Missoula Food Bank reported Tuesday they don’t have nearly enough frozen turkeys for needy families, just days before two big deadlines.

Saturday at 11 a.m. is the deadline for the annual Can the Griz and Can the Cats food drive competition. It’s the 20th annual friendly contest between Bozeman and Missoula to see which city can collect the most food before the 119th annual rival colleges’ football game.

And Sunday is the day that both food banks start distributing food boxes and frozen turkeys to thousands of hungry households for Thanksgiving dinner.

The Gallatin Valley Food Bank had just 450 turkeys as of Tuesday morning, but it needs 1,200 for holiday baskets, said Jill Holder, food and nutrition director for the nonprofit Human Resource Development Council.

The Missoula Food Bank reported on Facebook Tuesday that it had just 10 turkeys and needs 2,000 by Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Can the Griz food drive is running behind last year’s collection numbers, said Heidi Worley, community engagement manager with Montana State University. The Bobcats have won 16 of the last 19 food drive competitions, but there are no guarantees this year.

“We need everybody’s help to make it happen,” Worley said. “I’m very excited – it’s very heartwarming to see all the donations coming in. I’m feeling very grateful for what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.”

Holder said she just found out that a potato farmer who usually donates “seconds,” potatoes too big to be considered the perfect size, doesn’t have any to give this year.

“I always am thrilled with what we’re getting. I’m psyched to feed people,” Holder said. But, she added, “If we want to beat the Griz, we’re not on a pace to beat that.”

Missoula Food Bank officials have finally figured out that they shouldn’t do any bragging in the final week, which last year provoked a big response from Bozeman, Holder said. They are “being cool this year, darn it.”

MSU has had several memorable food-raising events, Worley said. Monday night the MSU Country Dance Club had about 300 dancers, who donated $5 or five cans of food each. Several breweries have held fundraising pint nights.

MSU sports teams collected a lot of donations by offering $5 tickets to volleyball and other games in exchange for food donations.

The MSU Fitness Center is offering free group exercise classes or day passes to students, staff and faculty who bring in five pieces of food.

Collection sites will be open until 5 p.m. Friday on campus and around Bozeman. Some of the most popular sites have been Ace Hardware on Huffine Lane, First Security Bank, and the Office of Student Engagement, room 221 in MSU’s Strand Union Building, Worley said.

Donations can also be brought to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, 602 Bond St. Holder said she hopes donors won’t wait until the last minute because it’s hard on the food bank’s staff and volunteers to cope with a giant volume on the last day. Last year, she said, 92,000 pounds of food came in on the last day.

Cash donations can be made online at, a website that also has a list of collection sites throughout Bozeman. Each dollar donated is counted as 1 pound of food. The winner of the contest will be announced at Saturday’s game.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 582-2633.

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