The President of Billings Food Bank Responds To Questions On Food
After writing my second article about food quality and the treatment people receive from the Billings Food Bank, I took it upon myself to try and reach SOMEONE involved with the Billings Food Bank... so I can hear from them directly about the issues that have come to light with the food bank.
Since that article earlier this week, we have received more testimonials from locals about the treatment they have received... and the quality of food they have received.
Prior to publishing the article on moldy and rotten items, Rebecka reached out to us via Facebook and shared her experience with the food bank.
(I have cleaned up her message with punctuation and paragraphs for clearer reading)
How One Mother Was Treated At Our Food Bank
Rebecka: Hello, I wanna share an experience that recently happened. From my post on Facebook on Billings WatchDog, there are tons of different comments from many people who have been mistreated. I have had many stories messaged to me regarding how they have been treated.
Rebecka: Many may disagree with me on this post or have their own opinions or judgment I’m not here for a disagreement or debate. With that being said, many know what the work I do and my passion for families in foster care. Today I witnessed firsthand how disrespectful someone was to a birth mom.
Rebecka: This mom has overcome so much in just 45 days. As we walk up to the food bank for her to get a little help with food the lady yells at both of us for walking in. When we approached and let her know that I’ve been working with this mom and wanted to get her some food the lady turned to the mom and was so disrespectful and said no to her because of her having no ID.
Rebecka: I asked if we could use my ID then for her to get a box. The lady said yes, turned to the mom, and very rudely told her she needed to go outside. The lady proceeded to ask me if this mom was involved with child and family services and had kids, I politely said yes and we were trying to get some help as she has been homeless and has finally now gotten into a home, the lady proceeded to tell me about how her daughter has a foster child and she doesn’t feel it’s right that the children are allowed to go back to their parents.
Rebecka: As this organization promotes, they are here for people who are struggling but yet have their front desk lady disrespect parents who have children in foster care. I will tell you I will never donate to this organization or support it again.
Now, that isn't a very friendly experience at our Food Bank. However, everyone can have a bad day. Though, taking from personal experience when I visited the food bank... I think I know exactly whom she is talking about.
What Does The Food Bank ACTUALLY Give?
After taking the time to reach out to CEO Sheryle Shandy a total of 8 times these past few months, I decided it was time to dive in a bit deeper.
On the Billings Food Bank website, they list their Board of Directors... so why not reach out and see who would like to have a chat?
I started with Teresa Liter from St. Vincent Hospital, as we work with St. V's for fundraising throughout the year.
I reached Teresa, and she informed me she resigned from the board in December, however, she was willing to provide me with Kathy Whittenberger's email (the President of Billings Food Bank).
Grateful, I took that down and sent Kathy an email immediately.
The President Responds
On Tuesday morning, I sent out an email to Kathy explaining my unsuccessful attempts to reach Sheryle Shandy, and detailing the articles I have written so far.
I also pointed out how I understand how difficult it is running a non-profit organization, and that I am simply trying to talk to SOMEONE at the Food Bank about these issues... and work together to solve them.
Finally, I made it clear that I wanted to know why Sheryle was ignoring my repeated requests for comment... both in person and via phone... and that I truly want to the Food Bank to shine, and would happily give them the chance to do so rather than appear as "the enemy of the public in need" which is quickly becoming their public reputation.
To my surprise, Kathy sent me an email back Wednesday (yesterday) morning... and here is that statement:
Dear Mr. Rath,
I am sorry to see that you have chosen to cast the Food Bank in a negative light, as it is clear that you are also concerned about food insecurity in our community. The Food Bank, a private, non government charity has been trying to help meet some of this need for over 40 years. Last time we counted, the Food Bank was helping about 10,000 individuals a month. We have a standard box, geared to family size which we give out one time per month. This is meant to be an emergency supplement, never meant to meet all of anyone’s needs. Since other agencies are also providing food, we ask that folks pick one agency to use. It is felt that, as the amount of food which can given away is finite, this will help insure that all those in need get, at least, some. In addition to the box which is regularly available and contains shelf stable food, we offer perishable goods which we have been given. These are often given to us as they are reaching the end of their usefulness. We offer them to folks, they may take them or leave them. So, regrettably, some of this food may spoil before it can be consumed. However, often it allows us to offer things not always available, such as meat, milk, bread and produce. If more is available, we will replace moldy bread if the inedible product is returned to us.
The Food Bank is now gearing up for the holidays. In non Covid times we have served a meal in house. Now it is more common for these to be delivered or picked up. Those who have the means to prepare a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal can sign up to pick up a box of “all the fixings”. Again, we rely on the generosity of the community to be able to provide these gifts to our neighbors in need. I ask that you consider helping us do so instead of falsely casting the Billings Food
Bank as “an enemy of the public in need” rather than an old and faithful friend.
I've taken care to share Kathy's exact response, as I made it clear I WANT a response from the Food Bank. Now... I have a few thoughts.
I was unaware the Food Bank only provides those in need an "emergency supplement" box, based on family size, designed to last a month. That is valuable information, though, I wish the Food Bank was transparent about this online... for those looking into food assistance.
I wouldn't say I was falsely casting the Food Bank as an "enemy of the public in need". For those who continue to share their experiences with us... it shows that changes are indeed needed.
And, I understand that those in need should "pick one agency to use"... but the food is there for those who need it. I don't expect to donate and have my donations sit on a shelf for weeks, months, or even years... when someone who needed them could have had them. So I disagree with that.
Finally, I will thank Kathy for replying to me. We want to see the Food Bank do better. We want these issues of families and those in need receiving poor treatment to come to an end. And, the end goal, would be to end hunger in general. But that is bigger than one guy writing on the internet.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Have you been in need, and utilized the Food Bank or other services? Let us know on App Chat or on Facebook.