Farm Hands looks to feed youth, elderly, this summer

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Farm Hands hopes to feed more youth and elderly this summer.

Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead will be looking to battle hunger in and around Columbia Falls as the non-profit organization unveiled a plan to operate several feeding stations around the area this summer.

The organization recently received a grant to help fund the new Summer Feeding Program, which will see healthy lunches delivered to students who do not have access to free lunches at school during the summer months. Farm Hands will be partnering with the Bookmobile, North Valley Food Bank and the food service director in Whitefish Schools to make sure the meals get to those who need them.

In addition, Farm Hands will also be operating several feeding stations around the area to provide nutritious lunches for school children under the age of 18, regardless of income level. The sites have not been finalized, but the group is hoping to operate feeding stations at Ruder Elementary School, the Boys and Girls Club and at the Canyon School on Fridays, as there is a church in Hungry Horse that is providing meals Monday through Thursday. Meals will be available Monday through Friday at the Canyon School in August. The group is also planning to have stations in Coram and Martin City, but locations have not yet been determined.

“There are a lot of local community partners helping us make this happen because Columbia Falls is third in the state for a meal gap in the summer. We are really excited about adding this program,” Farm Hands Executive Director Gretchen Boyer said. “We want out community to have access to fresh, healthy food, regardless of income. It is important to us to help identify the gaps and figure out how to fill them. We are excited to have so many people and organizations willing to partner with us to help make that happen.”

In addition to their Summer Feeding Program, Farm Hands has been helping feed the valley in other ways, including being a sponsor for the Columbia Falls Backpack Program, which helps feed more than 200 students in School District Six each week. The group has been providing fruits and vegetables for a Friday snack for all students at both Glacier Gateway and Ruder Elementary schools and adding fruits and vegetables to the food that students in the Backpack Program take home every weekend.

Farm Hands also has several programs available at local farmers markets in Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Kalispell.

One program allows SNAP recipients to get twice as much fresh fruit and vegetables at local markets while another allows local student to receive a free $5 coin that can be used at the markets.

One of the newer programs at the markets allows seniors ages 62 and older to receive a free coupon worth up to $30 to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets. Farm Hands will be handing out 40 such coupons during the summer.

The federal government sponsors a similar program for seniors, but Boyer said the program can be hard to get into, so Farm Hands raised the funds to create a similar program of their own.

“Ideally, the program targets low income seniors, but we are really wanting to help people and get the word out, so right now we are giving them to any seniors who want them,” she said. “We really want seniors to come to the market and enjoy the bounty of Montana.”

For more information, visit Farm Hands at their information booth at local farmers markets, email them at info@farmhandsnourish.org or visit their website at www.nourishtheflathead.org.

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