Blackfeet United Methodist Parish provides aid, ecumenical partnerships in post-shutdown food crisis

February 12, 2019

Editor's note: This story first appeared on the First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell, Montana's website. You can read the original story and call for donations online.

Story by the Rev. Miriam Mauritzen
Community Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kalispell, MT

In the aftermath of the 35-day federal government shutdown, the A’aninin and Nakoda Tribes on Fort Belknap Reservation and the Chippewa and Cree Tribes of Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana are facing dire food shortages threatening illness, starvation and loss of life. We are calling upon our local community to donate funds to restock empty food pantries and provide immediate hunger relief to our tribal neighbors and friends.

On Thursday, January 24, 8,000 lbs of food were delivered to the Blackfeet Reservation in collaboration with Essential Eats of Missoula, Flathead Food Bank, Kalispell Rotarians, Glacier National Park, Birch Creek Hutterite Community, and an Elder of FPC Kalispell. Due to this successful venture, Rev. Calvin Hill of the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish was approached Friday, January 27 by the the A’aninin and Nakoda Tribes on Fort Belknap Reservation and the Chippewa and Cree Tribes of Rocky Boy Reservation about their worsening food crisis. On Saturday, January 26, Rev. Calvin Hill and Rev. Jack Mattingly met with the Fort Belknap Tribal Business Council to discuss the ensuing disaster.

They report 359 families directly affected by the furlough which extends to 1,100 individuals in their household. Food pantries that regularly service the community were overextended and now their shelves are empty too. Those who rely on local food banks also face a hunger crisis. Most families did not have resources to fall back on in a time of crisis. Many qualify for SNAP benefits that are only guaranteed through mid-February. Currently, back pay is not yet guaranteed to those furloughed.

As negotiations over back pay continue, if granted, paychecks will not arrive for another few weeks. Tribal leaders report hundreds more affected in the same way on the Rocky Boy Reservation.

On Thursday, January 31, 10,000 lbs of potatoes and 1,000 lbs of food was loaded up from Flathead Food Bank by 15 Kalispell Rotarians onto a trailer headed to Fort Belknap led by Rev. Calvin Hill and Eric. Last weekend, all the food was distributed by Jim Kennedy of the Fort Belknap Food Pantry along with meat from 13 bison the tribe slaughtered so their people will survive the crisis.

On Saturday, February 2, 38,000 ounces of baby formula and 5,000 diapers were delivered by Jason Cronk to Fort Belknap to secure the very youngest caught in the crisis. The tribes are grateful for our partnership and support. More food is needed. Another government shutdown may be around the corner.

We need your support. More trucks of food and supplies will be dispatched from the Flathead over the next 2-3 weeks to get through this food crisis. To date, FPC Kalispell has collected and dispatched over $3,685.00 of funds given by our community. Join us!

There are two ways to donate:
  1. PayPal of Blackfeet Methodist Church Parish (BUMP) at Simply put in "2019 Tribal Hunger Relief" in the memo line.
  2. Check or cash sent to First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell. Simply put in "2019 Tribal Hunger Relief" in the memo line.
Our relationships are strong and enduring. Rev. Calvin Hill of the Blackfeet United Methodist Parish is our trusted point of contact between all the tribes. See below for a list of our collaborative partners in place positioned as conduits of relief. With your help, we can quickly pay for baby formula, diapers, and food to resupply empty food pantries and save lives. Thank you for considering our efforts to respond to this humanitarian crisis.

With Abiding Faith and Hope,
Rev. Miriam Mauritzen
Community Pastor, First Presbyterian Church

Collaborative Response Team
Rev. Calvin Hill, Blackfeet United Methodist Parish
Rayola Running Crane, Blackfeet United Methodist Parish
Jim Kennedy, Fort Belknap Food Pantry Distribution Coordinator for Relief
Jamie Quinn, Director of Flathead Food Bank
Rev. Dawn Skerritt, United Methodist Church of Columbia Falls & UMCOR Relief Coordinator
Tom Esch, Member of First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell & Kalispell Rotarian Rabbi
Francine Roston, B’nai Shalom Jewish Congregation
Rev. Glenn Burfeind, First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell
Rev. Miriam Mauritzen, First Presbyterian Church of Kalispell & Serious JuJu
Rev. Maggie Lewis, Chinook Presbyterian Church & First Presbyterian Church of Havre
Rev. Jack Mattingly, Harlem United Methodist/Presbyterian Church & Chinook United Methodist Church
Jason Cronk, President of Kalispell Daybreak Rotary & Cheif Exec Officer of Emmanuel Lutheran Homes of Kalispell