Big Sky Community Food Bank changes and grows
Upcoming expansion and fall programs at work
In a typical year the Big Sky Community Food Bank (BSCFB) serves about 700 people and is only open two days a week. Seasonal folks, during financial emergencies, have often turned to the resource. When the pandemic started, things changed. The BSCFB decided—with the support of funding from Resort Tax and other community foundations—to triple its services overnight. Sarah Gaither Bivins, the operations manager and services navigator, jumped from 20 hours a week to 40. She hired two assistants and doubled BSCFB’s open hours from two days to four days a week.
The customers have also changed. “Before covid we saw the majority of customers were seasonal workers. A lot of times single people who are here for a winter season or who had come back several seasons in a row. Or when they had a medical emergency or vehicle breakdown,” said Gaither Bivins. “Since covid we are seeing a lot more families. People who never thought they would need a food bank... All of my customers are employed. The families I am seeing now are struggling to make ends meet on a month-tomonth basis with housing costs and in some cases, wages have not followed suit. The changing demographic is moving into families who have lived in Big Sky,” Gaither Bivins explained.
As a result of these changes and growing needs of the community, the BSCFB plans to expand in the near future. They will offer more services, more space. They will have a computer lab, washer, and dryer. Gaither Bivins hopes to incorporate these additions, in the exact same space, by the start of this upcoming ski season. Ideally the public will have access to them by early November 2021.
Events coming up for the BSCFB include the Great Pumpkin Giveaway on Oct. 23 and their annual Thanksgiving in a Bag food drive. Signups for volunteering are available online at the “Volunteer Big Sky” website. The BSCFB is currently looking for folks who want to lend a hand.
Other programs going on behind the scenes for BSCFB currently involve kiddo nutrition. The first provides snacks, kind of like a food pantry, for Big Sky Community Organization’s (BSCO) after school program. They hope to get another snack pantry up and running at Discovery Academy soon. The second program providing food for kids is part of a national campaign called Kids Pack. This provides pre-packed meals for youth over the weekend. BSCFB is currently implementing this weekend program for the Big Sky School District and Discovery Academy.
With the year quickly coming to an end and significant changes on the horizon for BSCFB, Gaither Bivins has been reflecting on the idea of security, “I was able to make all these decisions when covid hit to expand, to add hours, because I knew I had the security of the funding that I knew would come in. I knew Resort Tax would be there for me. I knew the community foundations would be there for me. For so many of our families in Big Sky they absolutely don’t have a security net. They don’t have a savings. They sometimes don’t have a job guaranteed from one season to the next. They certainly don’t have security in housing. It’s really hard to make decisions when you are insecure about where you want to go in life. There’s a population in Big Sky who probably have never felt insecure in their entire life.”