Sandwiches & mental health for the people
Jean Behr brings passion into her food truck and her nonprofit loves
Jean Behr has the sweetest laugh, the best smile and the most beautiful red hair. Her laugh populates just about every story she tells, and her kindness is apparent in a board meeting, at her food truck and through an iPhone.
“It’s kind of a funny story,” she said about how she and her husband, Kyle, ended up in Bozeman. The two were dating long-distance before they got married, Behr in Sioux Falls, S.D. and Kyle in Milwaukee, Wis. She convinced him to move to Sioux Falls with one of the conditions being that the next time they moved, he could pick the place.
Montana it was.
The couple was bouncing between Boise and Bozeman before Behr found an executive director opening with Women in Action (WIA) in Big Sky. “I was like oh my gosh, this is everything I love to do. All of the spaces I like to work in and at the time it was only 20-25 hours per week,” she said, which was what she was looking for. Even just in her interview with the WIA board, Behr could feel the connection and the click—it was the perfect place for her.
“We are so small, and our mission is just pretty open ended, to just serve the Big Sky community,” Behr explained. “When people come to us with new ideas its usually just a quick like, yeah does this feel good to everyone? And that’s how we ended up funding Noticias Montaña and working with Samantha Riley and the Spanish language resource liaison because we set our budget every year, but we leave our community enrichment budget pretty wide open.”
It is neat, because of that flexibility, that WIA can wait for the right things to pop up to support when the community needs them, or even wait for the community to come to their doors and request something.
Behr used the word nimble to describe the nonprofit. WIA grows and fluctuates with Big Sky as Big Sky grows and fluctuates. Behr accepted the E.D. offer and left her position with Planned Parenthood in South Dakota.
“My business card was absurd,” she laughed about her title with Planned Parenthood. Basically, she worked in reproductive social justice and wanted to wait to leave until she felt the position was developed and there was interest in filling her vacancy.
In simpler terms, she cared.
“It feels like the work I’m doing is an extension of everything I’ve done in the past,” Behr said. In both her position with Planned Parenthood and then with WIA, Behr sought to give people access to things they otherwise might not have had. With WIA this includes using a sliding-scale fee, bringing counselors up to Big Sky from the Human Resources Development Council and working towards developing a behavioral health coalition.
A lot of WIA’s scholarship programs have shifted to focus on families that may not have the same means as other families, making sure kids in Big Sky have the same opportunities regardless of their parent’s employment. “Access isn’t true access if finances are a barrier, if geography is a barrier, and so WIA has worked really hard to ensure that we can connect as many people with resources as possible,” Behr said.
Over the three years that Behr has been in the Bozeman/Big Sky area, she has extended her caring nature to the couple’s food truck, The People’s Sandwich.
The People’s Sandwich, outside of Mountain Hot Tub on Huffine, serves straightforward sandwiches with a twist and a bit of humor. “I think one of us said it one day in the car and we just kept coming back to it, and then we came up with the idea of the fist holding the sandwich, Soviet propaganda…We thought it was pretty funny,” Behr explained.
Behr said you never get the same thing from the truck and certainly never get a boring sandwich.
“We’re not, like, chefs or anything but he (Kyle) worked in the bar and restaurant industry forever and I all through my twenties. It’s very in our blood, I guess, and we just started working on recipes when we moved to Sioux Falls and worked on concepts and were lucky to have a friend from Milwaukee who had a food truck who wasn’t using it,” Behr said.
The food truck is open for lunch Tuesdays through Sundays and the couple chooses some smaller events to cater when time allows. Typically, it is Kyle running the show during lunch hours, as Behr is busy with WIA, but she appreciates the flexibility of a food truck compared to a brick-and-mortar restaurant. If she is needed at the truck and WIA is low-key, she can lend a hand.
Another benefit to a food truck is the fact that the staff is literally made up of Kyle and Behr. If they come up with a crazy idea, the only people they need to retrain are themselves. With a smaller menu, they can get comfortable in their staples and tweak things here and there to always provide customers something special.
“We just like to have fun with our food. We both love to eat, and we love to cook,” Behr said.
Behr makes food for the people, provides opportunities for the people and advocates for mental health services for the people. With two jobs seemingly as different as cooking in a food truck and being an E.D. of a nonprofit, the common denominator is Behr and her kindness and dedication.