And we continue to serve more food to more people.

Person Power During the Pandemic

By Kelli Hess


Almost everything at MFB&CC has changed since the onset of this pandemic. We used to have coffee and pastries at the front of our Store; our neighbors could sit and read the paper, or have a conversation with a stranger, before their shop. Kids played in EmPower Place. Our kitchen was full of volunteers, customers, donors, and people who had never stepped foot in our food bank before – all taking the same cooking class.

So many things are different now, in so many ways.

We’ve adjusted our services so that almost everything is Grab-n-Go. Now, customers who visit our food bank are in our Store for one or two minutes. We went from having 700+ volunteers each month to only having a handful of volunteers at the food bank each week. Since March, we have seen more unique Missoulians needing nourishment than ever before. We know that we serve some of our most vulnerable neighbors. In these trying times it’s so important for us to be able to offer emergency food assistance without disruption.

We know it is our responsibility to keep our team and our customers as safe as we can.

We have transitioned our staffing from many many helpers to having as few people as possible in the building at any given time. Everyone at the food bank wears masks. Staff and volunteers wear gloves and wash hands often. We have split our staff into two teams. One team, the “store team”, works at the food bank. The second team, “the home team”, is working from home and are on-call for when/if a member of the store team tests positive for COVID-19. Both teams a have a limited number of incredible volunteers who offer 10 or more hours per week of their time. To keep pace with the growth in need over all our services, we have had to bring on a handful of temporary employees, an unbudgeted but necessary expense. And the plan is working. We continue offering high quality nutrition to our friends and neighbors while limiting the exposure of our staff and volunteers.

The part of our food bank that hasn’t changed is the sense of community.

Our staff team has stepped up to this challenge, and the volunteers that have been working continue to be the most loving and kind people you’ll ever meet.

We consider ourselves lucky to be in a community that continues to support the work that we do.

While we can’t wait for this pandemic to end, we want our community to know that we’re doing ok. Our plan is working, and with the support of this community, more food is going out to more people than ever before.

Donate to our 35th Annual Holiday Drive to help nourish those in our community living with less. Donate today at

Missoula Food Bank Sets Important Fundraising Goal

Missoula Food Bank Sets Important Fundraising Goal

Missoula Food Bank & Community Center’s annual Holiday Drive comes at an important time. Approaching the emergency food provider’s busiest months of the year, the drive is critical to the organization’s sustainability. The food bank hopes to raise $250,000 in individual donations during the month of December. To help to raise funds, Jackson Contractor Group is offering a $10,000 matching donation on Giving Tuesday, December 1st.
“Our food bank is often the first place folks come when they need help,” says Aaron Brock, executive director. “In 2020, we have already seen more than 30,000 different people through our doors. That’s one in four people who call Missoula County home.”

COVID-19 has had direct financial impact on 65% of families who have visited the food bank in recent months.

“The Holiday Drive supports our Store operations,” says Brock. “Early in the year, we changed our model from a choice model, that looks more like a grocery store, to a pre-loaded, grab-and-go cart model to help keep our customers and team as safe as we can. We have loaded more food into carts to help families for more days, which also helps to reduce traffic.”

Food sourcing early in the pandemic was challenging, though many supply issues have been reduced as the country continues to navigate the ongoing health crisis. Regarding food supply, Brock says, “We are buying more food than ever before, and because of our limited ability to utilize volunteer help, we are purchasing less bulk products that need to be repacked, and more items that are already in family-sized portions. With our purchasing power, we continue to be able to stretch dollars much further than an individual at a retail store, but we are purchasing more food, and more food that is more expensive.”

In order to keep pace with demand, MFB&CC has hired a small number of full-time, temporary employees. “To get 40 hours of productivity in a week, that often means up to 20 volunteers,” explains Kelli Hess, operations director. “For the five temporary employees we have in our building during this time, it would take as many as 100 volunteers to fill that equivalent. As much as we miss our volunteers, that kind of exposure is not in the best interest of our volunteers, our team, or our community.”

Since March, the food bank has experienced two positive cases of COVID-19 on their operations team, during which time the organization has continued to operate with a small team and reduced services while exposed team members quarantine. Limiting the number of people in the building and strict sanitation and distancing measures are credited for keeping operations consistent.

Expecting the coldest months of the year to pose steeper challenges for families, as has historically been true, the food bank, which struggled to meet its Holiday Drive total in 2019, is hopeful it will meet fundraising goals this year. Donations can be made online at, or by mail to 1720 Wyoming Street, Missoula, MT 59801.

Allyship with our Native Community

Missoula Food Bank & Community Center’s November Appeal Letter  invited our community to learn more about historic events of violence and oppression against Native people and nations, specifically those events that are rooted in the national holiday, “Thanksgiving”.

Crystal White Shield, Director of Community Organizing and Equity has provided the following research and resources, as well as sharing a deeply personal account of why it is so important to our goals of equity to re-examine our relationship with the November holiday. 

TRIGGER WARNING:  There are historic events described in this blog that are violent and inhumane. Graphic language is used with intention of acknowledging real events that have resulted in inter-generational trauma for Native and First Nations People; events that continue to impact our Native communities today. Many of the stories herein will be new to most; it is white privilege that has allowed for many of us to have grown to adulthood without ever having to confront these regrettable and horrifying events.  The connection to systemic oppression and food security is direct. We hope that through an understanding of historic events, our majority-white community can become better allies in the healing Crystal describes herein.

As we approach the holiday season, while navigating through the uncertainty of times, we are doing so with hope and gratitude. We, at the Missoula Food Bank and Community Center, are also approaching the holiday season with a different kind of intention.

You may have noticed that our food bank has distanced itself from “Thanksgiving” specific language.  Let me tell you why that is.

While we strongly believe in the values of gratitude, family, and coming together over a traditional meal to celebrate and reflect on the things we hold close – we also strongly believe that our Native American/Indigenous community matters and that the roots of the November holiday are in conflict with that value.  We are not asking anyone to celebrate differently.  What we are asking is that we reflect on the history that surrounds the November holiday.

Currently, we have fairytale-like stories of pilgrims coming across the ocean aboard the “Mayflower”, settling in Plymouth Rock. We were told in school that Indians and pilgrims happily shared a peaceful meal together, calling it “Thanksgiving”. This is a story that is falsely taught to US citizens, as the real history behind the story is intentionally not told in our US History books.

The First Thanksgiving

In 1637, the Pequot people were gathered for their tribe’s annual Green Corn Festival, a celebration of harvest that was later appropriated by Thanksgiving.  Dutch and English mercenaries surrounded the camp of the Pequot people in the early morning hours before the festival, and 700 Pequot men, women, and children were killed. This date would come to be known as “The First Thanksgiving” by many Indigenous people. Events that led to this mass killing included an armed conflict between the Pequot tribe and an alliance of colonists from the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Saybrook colonies and their allies from the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes. Survivors of the massacre were taken into captivity with hundreds of prisoners sold into slavery to colonists in Bermuda and the West Indies, while others were taken as captives by nearing tribes. Some became house slaves to colonists in New England. The Pequot War by Battlefields of the Pequot War: Informing the Public about the Pequot War and the preservation of the battlefields “The Truth about Thanksgiving is that the debunkers are wrong” by Jeremy Bangs at Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Thanksgiving as a National Holiday

The first “Thanksgiving” proclaimed by a US president, was by President George Washington, our first US President, declaring November 26, 1789, a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.  This proclamation was made on October 3, 1789. Many more US Presidents have made Thanksgiving proclamations, which can be found here:

In our US history, Abraham Lincoln served as the 16th President of the United States from 1861-1865.  During his time as President, he was praised for his lead in the 13th amendment that abolished the enslavement of people in our country on December 6, 1865; in the same space, he declared a holiday attempting to unify the Country that is rooted in violence and oppression. President Abraham Lincoln established the final Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863, which founded the day where US citizens recognize a day of “Thanksgiving” as a National Holiday during the last Thursday of the month of November.

Almost a year prior, on December 26, 1862, President Lincoln approved the mass public execution of 38 Yankton Dakota men that were hanged in public in Mankato, MN, after very short trials of 498 Dakota men accused of raiding settler towns. Trials were no longer than five minutes each, with very little evidence, no attorneys to represent each of the accused, and the process inherently unjust due to the language barrier between the Dakota men and the military personnel in charge of these trials. This was the largest penal mass execution in United States History ordered by a US President.

The Indian Wars

While the United States was focused primarily on the American Civil War during the time Lincoln was in office, ignored in our Nation’s history was the extermination of many Native American people from various tribes that were carried out by the US Military as wars and massacres under President Lincoln’s direction. During the time of the American Civil War, “Indian Wars” and massacres had transpired, killing many Native People, with survivors becoming prisoners who succumbed to their death by either illness or starvation while imprisoned in US Military concentration camps. These wars and massacres would include the following:

  • Dakota War (Sioux Uprising) of 1862 – December 26, 1862
    • Battle of Dead Buffalo Lake – July 26, 1863
    • Battle of Stony Lake – July 28, 1863
    • Battle of Whitestone Hill – September 3, 1863
    • Battle of Killdeer Mountain – July 26, 1864
  • Colorado Wars
    • Sand Creek Massacre – November 29, 1864
    • Battle of Julesburg – January 7, 1865
    • Battle at Platte Ridge – July 26, 1865
  • Chiricahua (Apache) Wars
    • Siege of Tubac – August 1961
    • Battle of Cookes Canyon – Mid August 1861
    • Battle of Florida Mountains – Mid August 1861
    • Battle of Pinos Altos – September 27, 1861
    • Battle of Dragoon Springs – May 5, 1862
    • Battle of Apache Pass – July 15-16, 1862
    • First Battle of Adobe Walls – November 25, 1864
  • Powder River War This was to support settlers to proceed to move westward. – July 1 to October 4, 1865
  • Long Walk of the Navajo (Bosque Redondo) – Beginning August 1864 as a part of the Civil War
  • Bear River Massacre (Battle of Bear River)– January 29, 1863
  • Snake War – Beginning 1864 (Oregon, Nevada, California, and Idaho)
  • Goshute War – 1860-1863: President Lincoln signed treaty with tribe on January 17, 1865

I am a direct descendant of the Sand Creek Massacre. This tragedy happened right around the time of “Thanksgiving”. The date, November 29, 1864, is forever etched into our people’s minds, hearts and spirits.  It was the same year that Montana was declared a Territory of the United States of America.

I am an enrolled Cheyenne – Arapaho tribal member, where I am descendant on my dad’s side (Southern Cheyenne) and my mom’s side (Southern Arapaho). During the November holiday, we think about our ancestors who survived and made us who we are today. We also recognize that we had ancestors who perished in this atrocity.

The Sand Creek Massacre was a US Military raid of my peoples’ village. They brutally killed elders, women, and children. Bodies were raped and mutilated. Soldiers cut body parts off my ancestors and paraded them through Denver, CO, as trophies. Many people cheered as these soldiers were deemed “heroes” for their efforts. Body parts of my ancestors were then celebrated and showcased at the Apollo Theatre in Denver.

Both bands of Cheyenne, from Montana and Oklahoma, and both bands of Arapaho, from Wyoming and Oklahoma, gather every year to remember, pray, pay our respects, cry, and sing for our ancestors that died that tragic day at Sand Creek. Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members, young and old, run from the Sand Creek massacre site to the Colorado state capitol building in downtown Denver, CO. I, personally, got to run for my ancestors last year, 2019. I shed tears as we sang, praised, and ran each mile of the way.

With all of our Nation’s history, “Thanksgiving” is a holiday rooted in the genocide of Native American and Indigenous people of North America.

I don’t want to deter non-Native families away from spending valuable time with extended families; my intention is to bring awareness to the excluded, real history of our Nation’s First Peoples, as it celebrates the November Holiday. Native American people will engage in the US Traditional “Thanksgiving” meal and partake in fellowship, however, it does not go without saying prayers for our Native people, and the atrocities and intergenerational trauma that has greatly affected our families. As Native First Nations people, we continue to offer prayers and burn smudge (i.e. cedar, sage, sweetgrass, etc.) as our Nation heals from all of the events that has caused damage to all people of our country. This November holiday, as Native, First Nations people, we celebrate our strength and resilience. We are STILL HERE.

Missoula Food Bank & Community Center’s annual turkey distribution will take place on Sunday, November 22nd from 10am-6pm at MFB&CC.  We anticipate serving 2,400 families.


Untold No More – Native Advocacy: The 1862 Sioux Uprising – HistoryNet by Jeffry D. Wert The Traumatic True History and Name List of the Dakota 38 – Indian Country Today by Vincent Schilling This week is the somber anniversary of the largest mass execution in the US – Lean Asmelash, CNN  The Horrific Sand Creak Massacre Will Be Forgotten No More – Tony Horwitz, Smithsonian Magazine Sand Creek Massacre: National Historical Site Colorado, “History & Culture” – National Park Service Legends of American: Colorado Indian Battles The Apache Wars Part I: Cochise – Chiricahua National Monument Arizona/National Park Service The Apache Wars Part II: Geronimo – Chiricahua National Monument Arizona/National Park Service Native American Relations in Texas – The Battle of Adobe Walls Connor’s Powder River Expedition of 1865 – Ellis Hein, WyoHistory The Long Walk – Native Knowledge 360 THE SNAKE WAR, 1864 – 1868 – Idaho Genealogy Trails Forgotten Shoshone Massacre Story Will Soon Be Told On Grand Scale – Daysha Eaton, KUER 90.1

Trick or Treat So Missoula Eats 2020

Trick-or-Treat So Missoula Eats is creeping by this week!

University of Montana students may be popping by your home for a COVID-safe, non-perishable food donation pick up on Tuesday, 10/27 or Wednesday, 10/28 between 4-8pm. If you find a flyer at your home, please leave unopened, non-perishable food donations in a paper or plastic bag near your front door for no-contact pick up and delivery to our local Food Bank. Community donations ensure our friends and neighbors have a variety of healthy, nutritious food to help get through the most difficult of times.
University students will be visiting neighborhoods in the University district, Greenough park area, and the Ranch Club neighborhoods this year.
Thank you, Missoula!

10/8/20 COVID-19 Update

Missoula Food Bank & Community Center will extend its schedule of reduced hours as a second member of its team has tested positive for COVID-19. The team member was last at the food bank on Friday, October 2nd.

Operations at the food bank will continue with safety precautions in place. The food bank will extend its reduced operating hours, which are Monday – Tuesday, 10am-7pm, and Wednesday – Thursday from 10am-1pm, until October 15. The food bank will be closed on Fridays 10/9 and 10/16. Safety measures include a plexi-glass barrier between customers and staff at the welcome desk, a streamlined, pre-loaded cart system to expedite customer interaction, masking, physical distancing, and sanitizing procedures.

MFB&CC’s staffing structure has maintained two separate teams of employees since the beginning of the pandemic. These two teams have worked completely separate of each other, allowing for some redundancy in case of a positive diagnosis. The secondary team has been operating at the food bank since Monday, October 6th. Every member of the team who was on site at the time of the two team members who have tested positive have been tested and will remain in quarantine, per Missoula City County Health Department recommendations.

“We continue to keep the safety of our team and community our highest priority,” says Aaron Brock, executive director. “We are supporting our team members who are isolating at home, and continuing our services during this challenging time for so many families.”

Those who wish to support the food bank at this time are encouraged to make financial donations through our organization’s website at

Prepared meals for kids will continue to be distributed during operating hours; parents and guardians can request meals from the welcome desk through the main entrance. Meals will not be distributed from the EmPower Place entrance at this time and the Kids Eat Free Bus will not operate for the weeks of reduced services.

MFB&CC is working closely with the Missoula City County Health Department; close contacts of the employees are being traced and contacted by MCCHD.