A bill being considered in the Montana Legislature would create a grant program meant to help local food banks buy more local food.
What a wonderful idea.
House Bill 276, introduced by Rep. Marty Malone, R-Pray, along with a few co-sponsors, would establish and allocate $1 million to a “Farm to Food Bank” grant program. Food banks that receive money from the program could use it to buy from local agricultural producers, improve food storage and transportation or provide resources to smaller food distributors.
Food banks are a crucial resource in towns across the state, including in Bozeman. The service they provide to people in need is unmatched, and the need is increasing. In the span of just one year, the number of households in Montana that used a food bank jumped by about 51%. At the same time, some food banks have seen donations fall as food costs rise.
Locally, the Gallatin Valley Food Bank serves thousands of people each year. According to its 2021-2022 annual report, the food bank gave out more than 1.5 million pounds of food that year.
It already has some purchasing agreements with local ag producers, such as Root Cellar Foods and Amaltheia Dairy. The director told the Chronicle last month that they want to make those deals more permanent, but that requires more money.
A state grant program could help. If food banks can make long-term purchasing agreements, it would mean more stability for those agricultural producers. It also could encourage more local producers to sell their products to a food bank. Direct agreements between farmers and food banks also mean more money ends up in the hands of the farmers themselves, not a middleman.
Everybody wins. Food banks get more cash to stock their shelves. Farmers get more buyers for their products. Food bank customers get more variety.
The program seems like such a sure thing that lawmakers ought to consider increasing the funding for it. Sure, $1 million will do some good, but any additional cash could do even more good.
Malone and the other sponsors of this bill are applauded for bringing this bill to the statehouse. It deserves broad support.
This editorial solely represents the opinion of the Chronicle Editorial Board. The board consists of the managing editor, the publisher and several community members. The community members are non-journalists who provide input and help shape the board's opinions.
The board does not represent the views of the newsroom, and its opinions have no influence over the Chronicle's news coverage. To submit feedback on this editorial, email email@example.com.
Mark Dobie, publisher
Michael Wright, managing editor
Richard Broome, community member
Renee Gavin, community member
Charles Rinker, community member
Will Swearingen, community member
Angie Wasia, community member
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