Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Guest blog by Aubree Pierce, MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA with Montana State University

My project is at the MSU campus food pantry, Bounty of the Bridgers (BoB). We began having pop-up pantries in October of 2017 so we are making adjustments and trying to improve the pantry as we go. My role with this project has been integral in building capacity and creating sustainability for the BoB Pantry. Through this project I have developed relationships with many campus and community partners who have helped push this project forward and are helping create permanence and sustainability on campus. These relationships as well as the support of student volunteers are so critical to the pantry’s success. 

Two of the most important relationships established are with the grocery stores, Rosauers, Safeway, and Albertson’s, and with the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. We currently serve mostly shelf stable items and bakery recovered from local grocery stores. We are greatly supported by the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. They provide us with some produce and we also pick up some produce from grocery stores. However, the supply is often limited and lacking in variety.

I had been in some communication with the campus research farm, Towne’s Harvest Garden, but I felt that this relationship could be stronger and would be a good source to bring more produce to the pantry. I reached out to the farm managers and they were very excited to work more closely with us. They gifted us a space to grow our own produce for the BoB Pantry and are growing extra rows of their normal crops to donate to us in exchange for occasional volunteer help.

After the partnership with Towne’s was established, I applied for and was awarded a grant from Youth Service America and the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation to host a Global Youth Service Day project. For our Global Youth Service Day event, we held a Garden Kick-off and Earth Day party. This event was a huge success because we were able to get more students involved with volunteering as well as some of the pantry clients, and this event helped raise awareness of the BoB Pantry and our dedication to providing fresh, healthy foods to the MSU community.

At this event, volunteers helped prepare the garden beds, plant seeds in the field, plant seeds for transplanting, and plant seeds to take home. We also had a kid's planter pot decorating station, a local food tasting station, and a farm to table educational station.

We will continue to have students and youth volunteer and be involved with the garden through the summer. We are excited to see fresh, nutritious food come to those in need, and we are excited to provide a learning opportunity for children to learn more about gardening, local food, and where their food comes from.

This event was so much fun and a great way to end the semester. I am filled with pride and I am in awe of the enthusiasm of the students and community who came together to work on this project. The students have made the pantry a success. It’s incredible to see so many young individuals engaged in service to better their community. The student volunteers that I am so lucky to be surrounded by are an inspiration and they have made my VISTA service feel so impactful. 

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