The State of Hunger in Montana

by jhwygirl

Normally I watch Meet the Press (immediately after watching Face the Nation) on Sunday mornings, but this week’s Face the State program caught my ear as the topic was the Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN).

Face the State is a locally produced news show – produced at any one of the several CBS affiliates across the state. It is on here in Missoula on Sunday mornings, at 9 a.m.

Gayle Carlson, who heads up the Great Falls Food Bank, was guest on today’s show. She presented some startling statistics on hunger here in Montana.

708,000 persons received food assistance here in Montana in 2006.

That figure is over double from 2004.

2006’s figure equates to a number that would be nearly 2/3 of all Montanan’s.

Nearly 50% of those receiving food assistance have someone employed in their household.

Those facts are startling folks.

Ms. Carlson told of a recently divorced woman, with 3 children, who came to the local food pantry for assistance. In her own words, Carlson said that “she’d never have thought that this woman would have needed assistance,” but that she was going through a hard time, and that the food pantry gave her the boost she needed to get her through the rough patch. She is doing fine now, and no longer needs assistance.

Myself, I see hunger in my own neighborhood. It’s not that obvious. I get up every morning around 6:30 to walk the dog, and that is where I see the need. I see several neighbors who are picked up (by others needing breakfast? by volunteers?) to be taken to their morning meals.

An older gentleman who lives nearby has meals-on-wheels delivered. I occasionally take him a meal – he loves my beef stew and my chicken and dumplings. The first time I did it, his gratefulness was so apparent, I have never forgotten to make large batches of that stuff (when I do make it) just so I can make sure he gets some.

Montana’s citizens rank somewhere near the bottom in terms of personal income – ranking 45th in 2004 (what was a move up the scale at the time), but ranking 49th in 2006. What Ms. Carlson emphasized is that the face of hunger in Montana isn’t necessarily what people would typically assume – it is not just homeless and unemployed people. It is the “working poor class” that is food challenged. It can be neighbors, it can even be co-workers.

This giving season, Craig at MTPolitics and Matt at Left in the West have revived what I think we all hope will be another successful fundraising event – the Montana Bloggers Fund for the MFBN.

The Montana Food Bank Network is a network of food banks and food pantries. It is also part of the nationwide organization America’s Second Harvest.

Montana’s food banks are large warehouses that distribute food, as needed, to community food pantries located throughout the state. A donation to the MFBN will help people throughout the state.

Please donate if you can.

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  1. Jedediah Redman

    This is just one among several recipients of my lengthy list of charities; but recently they too have hired a canvassing company to do their soliciting for them.
    I don’t know whether it is just my suspicious nature at work–or if there is in fact a likelihood somebody is now hauling down a pretty good living on the backs of the hungry.
    (I have an acquaintance–a real niggard–who has begun to dismiss all such efforts as simply of the contributions industry.)
    I’d hate to think any significant portion of money I donate to help people down on their luck is being syphoned off by profiteers.
    Anybody know for sure?

  2. Food donations in the Great Falls area are off by 20% this year – that’s a lot – and in a community, with its military base, that probably really really needs to see a steady stream of donations.

    Considering the need in Montana, even if what you say is true, it doesn’t bother me.

    The Salvation Army hires people to solicit its donations.

    If that’s what they have to do, that’s what they have to do. Volunteers don’t necessarily, I guess, want to go door-to-door to get donations. I don’t blame them. Any one agency probably has a tough time getting volunteers to begin with – having them go out to solicit donations might not be the most prudent way to utilize their precious volunteer time.

    The cause is what is important, IMO, Jedediah – I don’t think any organization that hires solicitors (and I don’t know that the MFBN is doing so) isn’t doing so because it wants to direct its resources in that direction – they’re doing it because it’s absolutely necessary.

  3. Jedediah Redman

    It certainly is the cause which is important, young woman.
    That is precisely why I object to any part of what I donate being syphoned off for some capitalists.

  4. Easy young man.

    Few few non-profits are entirely volunteer. They have paid people working for them. Hell – St. Patrick’s Hospital is a non-profit (whatever that means, huh?).

    Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Way, March of Dimes, the local Ronald McDonald House…you get where I’m going. All have paid staff. Are paid staff siphoning off cash in the name of capitalism, with some evil agenda, as you seem to be suggesting?

  5. Jedediah Redman

    That of course is why my tightwad acquaintance dismisses all charities as the contributions industry.

    “Are paid staff siphoning off cash in the name of capitalism, with some evil agenda, as you seem to be suggesting?”

    What I’m suggesting is this:

    I believe the purpose of governance is to ensure the welfare of all of its citizens–not the welfare of its entrpreneurs.

    You seem solidly in corner with those Reagan Demorats who would continue to hope that a rising tide will float all boats.

  6. I believe the purpose of governance is to ensure the welfare of all of its citizens–not the welfare of its entrpreneurs.

    You’ve switched from talking about how non-profits run – how they staff themselves and how they seek donations – to government.

    Back away from the keyboard – and be careful not to knock over that beer while you’re doing so.

  7. Jedediah Redman

    Not a chance I’m gonna let you back off that easy, sis!
    I’m talking about the need for charitable organizations.
    If the charitable organizations cannot support themselves, it seems not to bother you at all that entrepreneurs are now doing it for them–and imposing a tax on the hungry folks at the food distribution locations!

    It does bother me.

    I’d have those taxes paid by entrepreneurs instead of those folks so down on their luck they have to line up for private dole.
    Why not have that become a public dole to cut out the entrepreneurs?

  8. Hold on a minute — 708,000 people? Montana only has about 900,000 people — so this figure can’t be accurate. Can you clarify?

  9. I was quoting what she said on the show. On the MFBN website (on the page I link to), it says that they’ve serviced 708,000 people, including repeat clients – thus, the clarification “equates to what would be 2/3 of all Montanan’s”

    Gayle was there to represent the entire Montana Food Bank Network, not just Great Falls.

    Hope that helps.

  10. JC

    That is precisely why I object to any part of what I donate being syphoned off for some capitalists.

    Well, then I guess that leaves you with giving home grown food to people standing on the corners with cardboard signs. Or maybe you should go out and volunteer for the MFBN so that they don’t have to pay one less person to collect and distribute food.

    Jed, it sound like you know naught about the MFBN. I’d suggest you pay them a visit or call them up to get your facts straight and your perceptions adjusted.

    I’d have those taxes paid by entrepreneurs instead of those folks so down on their luck they have to line up for private dole.
    Why not have that become a public dole to cut out the entrepreneurs?

    You want to take private donations of money and food and let the government distribute it? I don’t think so. Or do you want the government to take over the job of feeding the hungry with public funds? Soup lines ala Great Depression.

    Companies and individuals who donate food to the MFBN realize that this is the best way to get surplus food to those who need it. Those who contribute funds expect MFBN to minimize administrative overhead and maximize productivity and pass-through.

  11. Jedediah Redman

    “Or do you want the government to take over the job of feeding the hungry with public funds?”

    Bingo!

  12. Jedediah, what makes you think that the federal government would distribute food aid with less overhead than a local semi-private organization such as the food bank? They have to hire people (managers, lawyers, etc. ) too, and I wonder whether they would inspire more volunteer support than charitable organizations already do. It sounds to me like you want to push off our responsibility to care for the poor in our communities to some outside, apparently limitless, source.

    Really, all non-profit organizations have certain entrepreneurial characteristics to them. I share your concerns with making sure that they are good stewards of the contributions we make, and ultimately it comes down to whether they have earned your trust. I’d encourage you to get to know them, and not base all of your decisions on hearsay from a friend. Also, there are oversight groups that keep an eye on siphoning off funds – although I’m not sure how that works around here.

  13. Even the smallest non-profit has to have some staffing to deal with daily paperwork, handling of donations, and organization of projects. I can’t imagine where you got the idea, Jed, that the government can do all these things (and usually much, much more) without cutting into the funds of any assistance program.

    If you’re that concerned about overhead, by all means do not give up on non-profits. Simply find a local group you want to support, give them a call, and ask about their internal structure. Most will be happy to tell you where the money goes.

  14. Look, oftentimes nonprofit organizations do farm out their collecting efforts to private companies, who siphon off the top of what they rake in. That’s a fact.

    The best antidote to this is to refuse to contribute any money to a phone soliciter and instead write a check directly to the organization.

  15. Jedediah Redman

    As seems to be the norm on this forum, jay seems to have understood what I was saying.
    The rest of you are like Ronald Reagan, apparently, believing government is not a solution to problems; but is instead the problem.

    Governance should be directed toward doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
    That it is not is not the fault of anybody but the citizens who keep voting for acquisition and convenience instead of improvement in conditions for the least among us.

    When I first skulked onto this forum I believed there were large numbers of rightwingers commenting on various posts; but I have since become convinced it was simply that most of the leftists here are in fact Reagan Democrats.
    Rockefeller, Dirksen–even Goldwater–would register farther to the left than most of the correspondents to these forums…

  16. JC

    Look, oftentimes nonprofit organizations do farm out their collecting efforts to private companies, who siphon off the top of what they rake in. That’s a fact.

    Let us not forget the fact that the U.S. government does a pretty good job of this, too. Except that it siphons dollars out of future generations by borrowing money to pay for unneeded war. And as it does this, it will claim, as Bush has already done, that there isn’t sufficient funding to provide for the “welfare of all of its citizens” that Jed would wish the government do. Instead, the government wishes to insure “the welfare of its entrpreneurs,” as the neo-fascist moves of Bush-Halliburton Inc. in the carbon mining era indicate.

    Unfortunately, Jed, the egalitarian and utopian vision you have of governmental beneficence is nowhere to be seen. Short a quick revolution, many people would die from hunger and lack of health care if it were left up to today’s government to provide for the public welfare.

    Asking the federal government to circumvent the structural poverty state that it has worked so diligently to create, by providing assistance to the poor, is like asking a river to flow backwards. It just ain’t gonna happen. And this is why communitarian approaches to providing for the social welfare of our less advantaged citizens are paramount.

    It seems that the tenor of this blog is to strike at the heart of what is it that government should provide. From basic services (roads, police and fire protections), to social amenities (like parks and open space) to cultural goods (museums, libraries and performing arts centers). But if we are to fight the current tendency of policy to be top-down, we need to develop policies from the ground up that the people are comfortable with.

    Big government taking over feeding the poor and replacing local services = a very bad idea.

    Better we work locally to provide an egalitarian system of services to counteract the structural poverty that has been foisted upon us by the neo-fascists. And that’s what the MFBN and many other nonprofits are so wonderfully doing.

  17. Jedediah Redman

    JC:
    You appear to be one of those who accepts no responsibility for the state of our present government; but still holds to that ancient capitalist assurance that a rising tide will float all boats.

  18. What on earth does a communitarian impulse for contributing to charitable organizations have to do with Ronald Reagan? I don’t get it at all.

  19. JC

    JC:
    You appear to be one of those who accepts no responsibility for the state of our present government; but still holds to that ancient capitalist assurance that a rising tide will float all boats.

    Incorrect. I neither subscribe to the Reagan notion of trickle down, nor the socialist notion of redistribution of wealth. I do believe that the populace has the ability through tax policy and subsidy/investment to redirect a nation’s priorities. I do think the people have the power and the responsibility to take back the reigns from the monarchical presidency that has been foisted on us.

    And for the record, the only presidential election in which I have voted for a winner goes back to Carter. So I hardly accept any responsibility for the policies and accomplishments of the rest of the bunch. I am only responsible for the state of our current government(s) to the extent that I have supported winning candidates, and they have implemented policy with which I agree, and to which I have participated in the deliberations thereof.

    An anarchist I fondly know here in Missoula often gloats in the troubles that our country and government has by stating that at least she hasn’t been complicit. I, on the other hand, judge those who are complicit (vote and participate) by the consequences of their actions–intended and otherwise–or by the lack of action (non-participation), effectively handing a defacto proxy to the powers that be.

    In other words, an educated and engaged electorate is paramount to the success of our current system of governance. We have precious little of either, and what we do have dilutes itself with petty bickering mediated by a corporate media. One can only hope that through independent means (like this and many other blogs and avenues of public discourse), the people can translate grassroots idealism into meaningful change.

  20. Jedediah Redman

    Libertarian, huh..?

  21. Jedediah Redman

    It is not the communitarian impulse, Dan. It is the hiring of entrepreneurs to collect the wherewithal…

  22. JC

    Independent, Jed.

  23. Jedediah Redman

    But still insisting on that strongly independent, individualist, bootstraps thing, eh, JC..?

  24. By insisting you know the inner workings of our political philosophies–on a website that you’ve admitted you’ve only recently skulked your way onto–you’ve missed the fact that several of us are trying to correct your original smear of the Great Falls Food Bank:

    I don’t know whether it is just my suspicious nature at work–or if there is in fact a likelihood somebody is now hauling down a pretty good living on the backs of the hungry.

    Correcting a gross distortion has nothing to do with Ronald Reagan, capitalists or the Democratic Party. Provide proof that the Food Bank has hired outside contractors who substantially cut into your donations and MFBN’s services or get your facts straight. But for heaven’s sake don’t insist individuals shouldn’t contribute to private charity just because you happen to believe government should be all things to all people.

  25. Jedediah Redman

    I did not insist any such thing, MS B.–talk about putting words in people’s mouths!

    I said I’d not be donating to anybody who hired other companies to do the collecting for them. And I think I said they were on my list of charities–along with the ASPCA and the Hamilton Animal Shelter–and a long list of others.

    I will not respond to bulkmail requests for donations!–because a portion of whatever I give is used to send more bulkmail requests–to me–and many others.
    A most profitable scheme for an entrepreneur who gets a percentage of all he collects.

    (I suppose that it is difficult to make the connection between entrepreneurs and Reagan Democrats?)

    As a matter of fact when I receive a bulkmail request, I scratch that recipient and add their money to what I give to my wife’s church.

    It is clearly a personal decision; but just as clearly hiring a collection agency is a tax on the hungry people for whom my gift was intended…

  26. JC

    I posed this question about outside solicitors to a friend of mine who works for the MFBN. Here is her response:

    “As for the scuttlebutt about hiring a firm to run solicitations. I presume you mean the direct mail pieces? If so, then yes MFBN does work with a firm for that. It is a non-profit that only works with other food banks through out the country. Because of that they pay much less than most companies.

    The Montana Food Bank Network has researched out the cost per piece with the current arrangement versus doing it “in-house” and determined that the cost savings is huge. It would cost almost 3 times as much if they did it in-house. I know this might sound cliché but MFBN is such a stickler for “maximizing” donations. This current arrangement is most definitely cheaper than anything else available.”

  27. Thanks JC.

    Every other outfit under the sun does that type of thing?

    Jed – ya see that?

  28. Jedediah Redman

    So if you wish to have your donations taxed by an entrepreneur go for it.
    Its only a tiny percentage; but if you were to give your money to a hungry man he would be able to use it all for food.

    As we grow in numbers and sophistication most of us become more willing to compromise a little here and there on our principles.

    I’m doing it way too frequenmtly to suit me…




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