Rachelle's Blog from Helena: Building Community Through Food in Helena, MT

     Recently, I spoke with a staff person at the United Way in Helena, who had conducted a city-wide survey, to assess the needs and desires of the citizens. Although the survey did reveal some information that probably could have been anticipated, such as the need for safe and affordable child care, it also unearthed other valuable insight regarding people’s thoughts and feelings about their community. An overwhelming number of respondents spoke about their wish for ‘neighborliness,’ and to feel a stronger connection to their peers and fellow community members. This was striking to me, and gave me motivation in my pursuits, to not only fulfill my objectives of food access, nutrition education, and community awareness, but also to foster sociability and friendliness throughout my service.
     As a part of my AmeriCorps service with Montana No Kid Hungry, I am in charge of planning and coordinating two community dinners that are free and open to the public. The first of these was held on January 26, from 5:30 to 7:30pm, at First Baptist Church. Planning this event proved to be a communal effort, and I have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of many local stakeholders. From small business owners, to farmers, to volunteers, this event was made possible because of the kindness and compassion of others. The planning and anticipation has gone on for several weeks now, as I have been working to organize the food, the venue, the incentives, the activities, and the outreach. The community dinner was held as a family-friendly event, and provided attendees with the same sense of warmth and gratification that I have experienced in Helena thus far.