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Community leaders discuss hunger in Ravalli Co.

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HAMILTON, Mont. - The Montana Food Bank Network spent Wednesday morning exploring food insecurity issues with community leaders.

The network said 18 percent of Ravalli County's residents and 23 percent of its children live below the poverty line. Grocery money can be tight for many families and seniors.

Martie Davenport is getting ready to plant her garden near Hamilton. She was raised on a farm in a big family, so she knows how to cook and how to make quality food last.

"I'll plant it," she said. "I'll tell you how to plant it and what you can do with what you get out of your garden."

She makes stew, soups and many other nutritious dishes that will last two or three meals.

Still, to supplement her groceries, she uses the food bank in Hamilton. She is a cancer survivor.

"I was working up until that time," she said, "and now it's hard. So far I haven't been able to get back into the workforce, so I'm just living on my disability and it doesn't last."

Davenport is the face of many of the people who use Haven House Food Bank.

"We provide food for 2,000 people a month," said director Judy Williams."That's just about every single month."

Williams came to the community forum to hear more about food insecurity in Ravalli County. Representatives from services agencies, churches and schools joined her.

The Montana Food Bank Network's chief policy officer said, "Kids struggling with hunger have more absences from school.They have high rates of illness and higher risk of chronic disease."

Lorianne Burhop said, "It's the same with seniors. Senior health is definitely impacted by lack of nutrition."

Burhop said the Bitterroot does have a number of resources to help, like food banks, church meals and schools that offer free meals during the school year and the summer.

But when kids are home for the summer it often means child care costs for families go up.

It's a struggle in all generations.

Davenport has always raised chickens for meat and eggs. She sells eggs and said by the end of the month that egg money comes in handy to buy gasoline.

She knows the value of good food and why it's important to make it last as long as possible. She said when she has excess in her own garden she will bring it to Haven House to help other families.

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