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Billings area food banks ramp up donation awareness as the holidays near

Family Service of Billings: 'It's not unusual for us to have 100 families come through every day.'
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Posted at 4:34 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 16:36:39-05

BILLINGS- Billing’s area food banks are stocking up for the holiday season, but officials are finding there’s still a massive need due to COVID-19.

As it turns out, with a backlog in distribution at our ports and an unstable economy getting some of those traditional Christmas and Thanksgiving Day trimmings may be even harder to come by this year.

But your donations can help, says Stacy Brown with Family Service of Billings.

“We’re looking for holiday food,” she said.

Brown toured MTN News around the Family Service donation warehouse where the food aisles are stocked and ready for needy families. But she says, the food quickly goes each day.

The scene is a common struggle we’ve seen across the country throughout the pandemic but unfortunately, it’s not slowing down, in fact officials are finding it ramping up.

“When we first moved into this building two years ago, we saw 36 families a day, in COVID we saw over 100 and since then it just stays at that number,” said Brown.

In one area of the warehouse, food is flying off the shelf. Brown says it stocked up at the beginning of the day, but toward the end of the day, it's all gone… leaving that rack empty.

“We restock as the day goes, but by the end of the day, it’s pretty bare,” she said.

The number of families in need of food has held steady according to Brown and she often says time families in Billings and the surrounding area are forced to choose between feeding their household or paying an electric bill.

Brown says that’s what Family Service is there for so that no family ever must choose.

“If they can get food here, then they can take what money they do have and they can use it towards their rent utilities, doctor bills, and what have you,” she said.

At the Billings Food Bank, Sheryle Shandy says they’ve seen some new faces stop in, through recent months.

She fears when the true impact hits for those receiving unemployment benefits and rental assistance sets in, their facility will see even more people.

“We’re seeing a lot of new people,” she said. “But I mean, they haven't seen the bad part of it yet.”

Nationally, the Billings Food Bank and Family Service are no different. Across the country, food distribution centers have seen a larger wave of people in need than ever before.

Shandy is hoping this year, people will donate those traditional holiday items to help supplement the distribution shortages.

“There are no new vegetables until this crop is in,” said Shandy. “They say … don't even think about getting them before the holidays.”

She says cranberries are hard to come by and she worries the cost of turkeys will be much more expensive this year.

But to make the season brighter, both Shandy and Brown believe what’s needed most is generosity and volunteers.

“Because we want to make sure that everybody gets something,” said Brown.