10th annual Carve Out Hunger food drive

Cans of food fill a cardboard bin at Bozeman's 10th annual "Carve Out Hunger" food drive. The bins can hold between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds of food, according to Jon Horn, operations manager at HRDC's Gallatin Valley Food Bank.

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The Human Resource Development Council has plans to bolster the fight against food insecurity in Bozeman.

The local nonprofit is working to build the Food and Resource Center, a near 32,000-square-foot building that would become the new home of the Gallatin Valley Food Bank and Fork and Spoon restaurant, along with other HRDC programs. Construction documents are nearly complete and site plans for the project have been submitted to the city for review.

The Food and Resource Center would be built on Griffin Drive. Construction for the Housing First Village, a tiny home development geared toward Bozeman’s chronically homeless residents, is underway roughly a mile west on Wheat Drive.

Plans for the nearly $14 million project are keeping an eye toward the future. Heather Grenier, CEO of HRDC, said the nonprofit has factored in future projections of growth and needs in the area, and intends for a facility like the Food and Resource Center to keep up with those projections for the next 30 years.

“This is a long term investment in what we call community infrastructure,” Grenier said. “These are critical resources for our community.”

The next step is to bid out the infrastructure aspect of the project in the next couple of months, and that construction on the building could begin this winter, Grenier said.

The project would come in two parts, with the Food and Resource Center being the first, followed by a year-round shelter and resource hub. HRDC opened the doors to a seasonal shelter on Wheat Drive in December 2020.

“We have really outgrown our existing facilities, primarily our food bank and our shelter,” Grenier said. “When you look at COVID, the two places where our community was hit, was in food insecurity and housing insecurity.”

Funding for the project will rely on New Market Tax Credits and philanthropy. But a critical funding component could be a Montana Community Development Block Grant. The process for the grants started at last week’s Gallatin County Commission meeting, with proposals for projects aimed at meeting the county’s housing and public facilities needs.

The next steps are scheduled to occur at the commission’s work session on Monday, where commissioners plan to review proposals, including the HRDC’s Food and Resource Center, and decide which ones they support for the application process.

Grenier hopes that HRDC can get $1 million for the Food and Resource Center.

HRDC switched to a drive-thru model at the Gallatin Valley Food Bank when the pandemic hit, and has since struggled with food inventory as demand has increased, Grenier said. Feeding America, a national organization that focuses on ending hunger, released a report in March indicating how food insecurity on the local level may have changed during the pandemic.

Roughly 35 million people were food insecure in 2019, the report said. Feeding America’s report projected that because of the recession and other financial hardships brought on by the pandemic, nearly 42 million nationwide people may have experienced food insecurity in 2021.

Two years ago, Gallatin County had an overall food insecurity rate of 8.2% of the population. The report projects an increase of 1.2% this year.

“We’ve been busting at the seams ever since the recession,” said Jill Holder, food and nutrition director for HRDC.

Holder said that the Gallatin Valley Food Bank has to use off-site storage for food, making the process of getting items from storage to the food bank inefficient. She said people are having to wait outside to get into the food bank because staff can allow only three people at a time into the space to help maintain social distance.

The Food and Resource Center is an investment on multiple levels that everyone can benefit from, Holder said.

“I think a lot of people think ‘oh well, HRDC, that’s just homeless people,’ which I hate that term,” Holder said. “It’s everybody. There’s probably not very many people that are one or two paychecks away from needing help.”

This story has been updated to correct the location of the Food and Resource Center, which will be built on Griffin Drive. 

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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