MT PECH Logo

CFAC is a proud coalition member of the Montana Partnership to End Childhood Hunger (MT PECH). MT PECH’s plan to end childhood hunger is in full swing throughout the year, but there are some seasonal programs that are important steps in that plan. Read on for highlights of summertime programs working to end childhood hunger in MT.

Here’s a preview of what’s below:

Step 3: Expand reach of Summer Food Service Programs
– “Summertime, when the livin’ is hard for hungry children”

Step 5: Increase access to public food programs
– The skinny on WIC and eWIC
– Advertise or set up a SNAP clinic in your area!

Step 6: Improve access to healthy, affordable, locally-grown food
– 
Healthy Food 4 All: Innovative programs in the Flathead
– Building Farmers’ Market Success: A Three-year Project

Tip Corner: Simple ways to enjoy local food

 


MPECH_Icon3

Step 3: Expand reach of Summer Food Service Programs: There are a number of summer meal program sites in Montana, but there can always be more. Read this Huffington Post article for information about Summer Food Service Programs and how to get involved. “Summertime, when the livin’ is hard for hungry children”

 


MPECH_Icon5

 

Step 5: Increase access to public food programs
– The skinny on WIC and eWIC
– Advertise or set up a SNAP clinic in your area!

The skinny on WIC and eWIC

Kati Burton, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist/WIC Public Health Nutritionist, and Arwyn Welander, Senior Community Health Specialist, with the Missoula City-County Health Department provide some insight into WIC, an important public food program to support pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.

What is WIC and how does it address the day-to-day struggles of families (and kids) facing poverty and food insecurity?
From Kati: WIC is unique in that it is nutrition-based. Not only are families able to benefit from receiving grocery store vouchers, but they also see nutrition counselors, including registered dietitian nutritionists, at least 4 times a year for growth checks and important nutrition guidance, such as breastfeeding benefits and feeding transitions from infancy to childhood. Community referrals to services are made in our clinics as well.

WIC vouchers can be used across Montana at most grocery outlets, and include food staples such as milk, eggs, beans, bread, peanut butter, fruits and vegetables, as well as infant formula for mothers/babies that are unable to breastfeed. Eligibility for the program includes all pregnant, breastfeeding and post-partum women, infants, and children to age five, that fall within 185% of the poverty level. At some point in time, many families in Montana will face poverty and food insecurity; and risk nutrient deficiency and chronic disease. By supplementing foods that can be consumed as part of a healthy diet, we can reduce the occurrence or worry of food running out on any given day.

Families in Montana, however, continue to share stories of running out of food, regardless of the assistance provided by WIC, SNAP, shelters, and food banks or pantries. As a Health Department in Missoula, (where WIC is housed), we continue to work closely with community providers to connect parents and children to quality nutritious foods that are accessible every day of the week.

What are some ways the health department is working to increase participation in the WIC program?
Continual customer service improvements at our clinic and more time in the community are some primary goals for our WIC team. A number of eligible families are not taking advantage of the WIC program in Missoula, so we attend community events and partner with other organizations as well as clinical providers, to increase awareness. We also work together as a team to make appointments simple and enjoyable for families so that they return for follow ups, but also tell their friends!

What can others do to increase participation in WIC?
Refer, refer, refer!  A call to the WIC office to check eligibility for any family in Missoula is worth yours or their time. Also, if you would like to partner with our WIC team on a food access or community project to increase continuity of care, let’s get the conversation started. We all have limited resources, but even the smallest initiatives can make big impacts.

What’s going on with eWIC?
Starting in September, families will be able to use a card, similar to SNAP, to purchase all of their benefits. They will also have access to a phone application that displays foods available for participants from month to month. Grocery receipts will also display remaining benefits after a purchase is made. This will hugely impact our families! Vouchers can be very difficult to use, in that every food item on one check must be purchased at the same time. The eWIC card will allow flexibility in timing purchases throughout the month based on when families actually need it. I suspect participation may improve as well, not only for improved flexibility, but also in reducing stigma around using the WIC benefits since parents can simply swipe what looks like a credit card.

How will the new system affect WIC at the farmers’ markets?
From Arwyn: WIC will continue to distribute Farmers Market coupons, so no change there.  The only change is Fruit and Vegetable vouchers (the monthly benefits participants get that can be used at the grocery store or market) will no longer be accepted or able to be used at markets. The redemption rate of those benefits at farmers’ markets was low, so it shouldn’t be a big change or affect too many.


Advertise or set up a SNAP clinic in your area!

Signing up for SNAP can be daunting but the Montana Food Bank Network’s SNAP Outreach Coordinator can  help. SNAP Application Clinics are a great way to help multiple people in the community sign up for SNAP by stopping one at central location on a  given day.  If you have a community event or organization in your community that would like to host an on-site SNAP Application Clinic, please call Elizabeth at (406) 215-1752 or email her at eweaver@mfbn.org

From Eastern Montana to the Hi-Line to Western Montana, here are the towns where clinics have been scheduled so far:

  • June 28th – Cut Bank (exact time and location TBD)
  • July 12th – Opportunity Link, Havre, MT, 3pm-6pm
  • July 13th – Chester Senior Center, Chester, MT, 12pm-2pm
  • July 13th – Sagebrush Food Pantry, Shelby, MT, 4pm-6pm
  • July 22nd – Clark Fork Market, Missoula, MT, 8am-12pm

MPECH_Icon6

Step 6: Improve access to healthy, affordable, locally-grown food
– 
Healthy Food 4 All: Innovative programs in the Flathead
– Building Farmers’ Market Success: A Three-year Project

 

Healthy Food 4 All: Innovative programs in the Flathead

It’s June! And farmers’ market season is getting into full swing. Read on to learn about innovative local food access programs happening in the Flathead from Gretchen Boyer, the Double SNAP Dollars Coordinator at Farm Hands-Nourish the Flathead.

What kind of work does Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead do?
Farm Hands-Nourish the Flathead is a community organization founded by farmers, eaters, business leaders and food system planners from around the Flathead Valley. Our interests include ecologically-sound, socially just, and economically viable ways of growing food and making it accessible to everyone.

Our Food for all programs includes:

  • The Blackfeet – Nourish Project connects community members to work toward a food secure community through FAST Blackfeet.  This project included a bi-monthly food delivery to the Medicine Bear Shelter.
  • Farmers’ Market Food Projects include:
    • School Coins, which gives school age children (450 junior high students and 670 elementary school students), a $5 coin to spend at the local farmers’ markets on fresh, local produce.
    • Senior Coupons provides private donated funds to seniors in the form of coupons to spend at the local farmers’ markets on fresh, local food.
    • Double SNAP Dollars gives $10 each market, each week to SNAP recipients to spend on local, fresh food when they swipe their Montana Access card. With a little extra outreach push last year, participation in this program increased by 100%. It’s a great way to help more people shop at the farmers’ markets and stretch their food dollars at the same time.

What is your biggest challenge in addressing local food access in your area?
Farm Hands – Nourish the Flathead feels that the biggest challenge to addressing local food access is more about income equality and a just food system.  Why is healthy, local food viewed as expensive? Farmers struggle to make a livable wage and eaters struggle to pay for local food.  We need to address the issue of livable wage in this country!

 

Building Farmers’ Market Success: A Three-year Project

NCAT is leading this project, in collaboration with CFAC, AERO and the Department of Agriculture, to implement a market resource network that will provide multiple tiers of capacity building opportunities, including regional conferences, webinars, and a listserv to provide networking, conversation, and learning opportunities for farmers market managers and vendors.

The project also focuses on increasing local food access by providing technical assistance to ensure that SNAP, WIC, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition benefits are accepted at most markets. The network will share resources and marketing materials to increase participation of these programs at the markets. TA will also be provided to help more markets implement nutrition incentive programs such as Double SNAP Dollars.

Contact NCAT for more information about this exciting project, funded through the USDA Farmers’ Market Promotion Program.


TIP CORNER: Simple (and fun) ways to enjoy fresh, local food:

Visit one of Montana’s 70 farmers’ markets (there must be one near you!) to shop for the freshest produce available. When thinking of meals, the more colorful, the better! And, think simple. A quick roast in the oven can bring out delicious flavors in our summer and fall root veggies–and you don’t need to add much to make it delicious! Dress up these simple foods with a sprinkle of lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper. Let yourself have fun and enjoy food with loved ones. Thanks for tip, Kati Burton of Missoula Health Department and WIC program!

 

Advertisements