BILLINGS — Protesters faced the cold Saturday morning to bring attention to what they say is a problem that dates back decades at the Billings Food Bank.
In late September, MTN News brought you a story on a petition that was started in an effort to oust long-time food bank director Sheryle Shandy. This came after claims of expired food and abuse made by food bank volunteers and patrons.
“I worked here for three weeks and I saw first-hand at the front desk the abuse. So I quit a couple of days after I saw what was going on. I couldn’t be silent about it, so I crafted a letter explaining that I got hired and worked and what kind of abuses I saw during my time there," said Ryan Johnson, a former food bank employee, on Saturday. “I think Sheryle not being there would be the best thing. The board’s not going to do that, and I don’t know why. They’re protecting something. When there’s millions of dollars involved, that’s going to be protected."
Johnson said the protest was about spreading awareness, regardless of whether the board removes Shandy.
“I think awareness of what is happening there in the building and then just getting the word out that there are other places people can go to do good things for other people, that's the main goal here,” Johnson said. “We are showing support for the people that are being verbally abused by coming in here and using the services. We feel like they need to be treated better. There are a lot of other issues within that building that need to be addressed. But we want to show support and have a voice for people who may not have that voice, or have tried to have the voice and have gone nowhere with it.”
MTN spoke with Shandy on the phone on Thursday requesting an interview, to which she declined.
Shandy previously told MTN the food bank was 'doing its best' and that she was aware of the complaints.
“I’d like for them to walk in our shoes for just 10 minutes," Shandy said in late September. "See how we’re treated with the folks that come in and think that this is an entitlement program – which it isn’t.”
The protest, which was scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., also had a space for donations to other local nonprofits. Family Promise, Family Services, St. Vincent DePaul, and Tumbleweed all had donation bins on-site.
"(Sheryle) has said she’s not going anywhere," Johnson said. "So the point being, we might not be able to change that fact, but we can change the fact that people can donate to other services around town and make a difference that way."
To learn more about the petition that started it all, click here.