Montana Healthy Food and Communities Initiative (MHFCI)
Montana Healthy Food and Communities Initiative (MHFCI) encompasses three projects that work together to bring healthy, local foods to people across the state: the FoodCorps program, the Farm to Cafeteria Network, and the Grow Montana Food Policy Coalition. Together, these projects work to combat childhood obesity, reduce childhood hunger, promote healthy and local foods in institutional cafeterias, and support vibrant local farms and ranches.
They provide nutrition education to school staff, parents, and students as well as develop and maintain school gardens. Other project activities include connecting institutions to local producers, creating market opportunities for Montana farmers and ranchers, and engaging in food policy.
Populations served by MHFCI are low-income families and children eligible for free or reduced priced lunch and for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Institutional food service staff and producers interested in local food procurement are also served by this project.
Targeted efforts of the program are in Anaconda, Big Fork, Boulder, Bozeman, Butte, Columbia Falls, the Crow Reservation, Ennis, the Flathead Reservation, Hardin, Kalispell, Livingston, Missoula, Philipsburg, Polson, Red Lodge, Ronan-Pablo, and Somers.
Major partners and funders for this program are the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Montana State University, Montana Team Nutrition, Montana Department of Agriculture, Montana Health Care Foundation, The Food Trust, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 24 Montana farmers markets, 13 Montana school districts, Crow and Flathead Reservation advocates, Montana Farm to School Leadership Team, and numerous community-based organizations.
The project has seen increased participation in farm to school programs, participation in SNAP, awareness of healthy food consumption benefits, purchases of fresh food at local farmers markets by low-income families, and purchasing of local foods by K-12 schools.
MHFCI says their success comes from a cross-sector leadership team carrying out established shared goals, engaged parents and community members, and locals who helped in designing and implementing program activities.
For more information, visit MHFCI’s website at https://mhfci.ncat.org/.
Nutrition, lifestyle, and community beliefs about obesity have a huge impact on children’s likelihood of becoming obese. One in seven children face hunger and food insecurity on a regular basis, and low-income families are actually more likely to struggle with being overweight or obese. It is important to educate the public on these issues and develop programs to combat them.