Food donations

Choteau 4-H members and friends Ava Gunderson, Claire Long, Rylynn Allaire, Natalie Hodgskiss, Lucy Armstrong and Preston Lee help with the back-up plan for the 4-H food drive on Nov. 1 at the District 1B volleyball tournament at Choteau High School.

In the 21 years that I have been assisting 4-H youth in planning the door-to-door food drive in Choteau to benefit the Teton County Food Pantry, we have never cancelled — until this year.

The food drive, which according to my notes was started by Jessica Schlepp in 1991, has been going continuously, helping fill the shelves at the local food bank. The drive has traditionally been in the autumn ahead of the holiday season. But this year, the weather got confused between autumn and winter. On Monday, Oct. 28, when the door-to-door collection was scheduled, visibility was poor, the roads were slick and the temperatures with wind chill were hovering around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. We decided for the safety of our youth ages 5-18 and our volunteers, we needed to cancel.

The 4-H youth on the planning committee — Samara DeBruycker, Audrey Hutton, Taylor Asselstine, Bellamy Beadle, Matthew Haas, Ainsley DeBruycker and Kyle Haas — had to quickly develop a new plan. Since it took several attempts to find a date that worked to do the food drive in the first place, we knew that rescheduling was likely not an option. We decided to have a food drive table at the district volleyball tournament to gather food.

Several of our younger 4-H members, who would have been the primary door-to-door gatherers, took charge of the booth late Friday and all day Saturday. The result was about 100 pounds of food and $230 in donations.

Part of the back-up plan was advertising that people can take food directly to the Food Pantry in the back of the Choteau/Teton Public Library during library hours. So far, about 400 pounds of food has been taken directly to the food bank. We also want people to know that they can make monetary donations by sending checks to Teton County Food Pantry, P.O. Box 534, Choteau, MT 59422.

Our door-to-door food drive typically brings in between 1,500-2,000 pounds of food. We have generated about 500 pounds in total, with monetary donations running at half of the amount last year. We know that it is easier to give when someone comes right to your door to gather your donation, but since the food drive will not be rescheduled, we encourage you to take your food to the food pantry or to mail a monetary donation.

I’ve been going door-to-door with youth for a long time now and I’d estimate that most households give between $5 and $35 worth of food. If you are planning to take a bag or box of food to the food pantry, maybe call a few friends or check with you neighbors to see if they’d like you to take their donations, too.

Mother Nature didn’t help us out last week for door-to-door food drive, but you still can!