Nonprofit To Partner On Eastern Montana Food Pantry

Mar 22, 2019

Groceries in Billings Family Service old building
Credit Kayla Desroches

A 100-year-old Billings nonprofit that helps in-need families is expanding and moving into a new building that’s three times the size of its current facility. It’ll also be the site of a new food resource center for the eastern side of the state.

Jane McCracken with Billings Family Service lead a tour of the organization’s old building and thrift store in downtown Billings.

She walked through the food pantry in the back of the facility and pointed out a cart of groceries packed for a family of four.

“And so you can see we start with eggs, dairy, and at the very bottom, if you look right through here, you’ll see that it’s all meat,” she said.

Around 10 percent of people in Yellowstone County are in poverty according to census data, and Billings Family Service is one of the organizations that offers assistance on food, housing, and other basic needs.

In May, Billings Family Service expands into a new building on Billings’ south side about two miles away from its current facility.

McCracken said the organization will be able to serve 30 percent more people.

She said the building will also provide space for a new partnership with Montana Food Bank Network to better feed in-need families in the eastern side of the state.

“What we’re expecting is that we will be a distribution hub, that there will be a large supply of food stored here and then trucked out on a regular basis from the center of the state to the eastern side. It costs way less to get food in bulk to a central location, and that’s what we will be.”

They’ll begin outreach to communities in eastern Montana in May.

McCracken said the new facility is the payoff of three years of work, with a budget of a little over $6.1 million, 20 percent of which was covered through the New Markets Tax Credit Program. The program incentivizes investment in businesses and projects in low-income communities.

The program was authorized in 2000 with an end date of December 2019. Legislation was recently introduced in the House and Senate to extend the program indefinitely.