The origin of Whitefish’s food bank can be traced to the garage of June Munski Feenan in 1977.  Initially, June and a few good friends collected only breads, fresh produce and limited amounts of canned goods and made them available for people to come by to pick up.

The Whitefish Food Bank, as it was then called, was soon getting more and more donations of foodstuffs and began working with Flathead County Surplus Food Bank in Kalispell to address the situation June and her friends believed was a real problem for some of the Flathead Valley’s residents: being unable to provide for their families’ hunger needs.  Whitefish Food Bank continued to accumulate substantial amounts of foodstuffs which were then pooled with Kalispell’s resources, and which in turn were divided up for distributions to be made from these joint resources to individuals across the valley.

As the inflow of goods began to increase it became necessary to find quarters other than June’s garage.  Through the efforts of several generous individuals, a 22’ x 32’ residence which had to be moved but had no destination, was donated to the food bank in the summer of 1985.  That autumn it was placed on a portion of the parcels of property owned by the Soroptimist Club of Whitefish along Lupfer Avenue and 1st Street.  The Soroptimists were generous enough to let us occupy the east end of their property for nominal rent.   Almost immediately this 700 sq. ft. building was found to be to small for our needs.  An addition was made to accommodate a walk-in cooler, walk-in freezer and an office on one side.  A short time later another addition was made on the opposite side of the building to create a storage area for canned goods.

A few years passed before the rear of the building was extended to allow us to have an area for more chest freezers and sinks for cleaning produce, etc. Again finding ourselves running out of room we acquired a full city lot lying directly behind the Soroptimist’s property in 2000 for the express purpose of expanding the building.  With the cooperation of the Soroptimists, we reconfigured the property boundary lines, acquiring ownership of the land our building occupied together with a portion of the lot we had purchased for expansion.  Nearly doubling the size of the existing structure we added two more walk-in freezers and an expansive storage area for canned goods, dry staples such as beans, pasta, rice, crackers, cereals, flour, baking mixes, etc.

Although it was believed that was the last addition ever needed it became apparent a tiny portion of our lot could accommodate more building so in 2006 a walk-in cooler for produce and a meat processing room with a walk-in cooler was added on either side of a roofed over loading/unloading dock.   The current building is now approximately 3,000 sq. ft. in size and bulging with goods.

The physical structure was not the only thing that grew over the years with the food bank.  Initially, June and one friend had done all the collecting and distributing of the food.  By the time the house was acquired in 1985 there were eight to ten volunteers helping with these chores which included at least two and sometimes three food distributions a week.  It soon became apparent a specific day for the distribution of the boxes and bags of groceries was going to have to be designated in order to keep the collections and distributions organized (and to keep from exhausting our volunteers).  Thursday became that day in 1988 and has remained so through the years.  Currently, an average of 50 unpaid volunteers donate their time throughout the week to ensure that on Thursday of each and every week, each an every individual of the average 260  coming to the food bank for assistance, receives between 25 to 30 pounds of food.  At Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter the amounts distributed increase to an average of 40 pounds together with a turkey or ham depending on the season.

Our volunteers include housewives, a retired Lt. Colonel, ARCO retirees, BN Railroad retirees, a Kalispell businessman (Checker Auto Manager, who picks up donations on his day off) a retired computer technician, lawyer, retired postmaster, retired city building inspector, a nurse and students, plus each week two missionaries from the Latter Day Saints come to help carry out heavy boxes.

Changes to the organizational structure of the food bank also became necessary.  Although June had handled the many business details of the food bank for several years, the increasing details of tracking of food and monetary contributions required her to get additional assistance.  During the 1980’s a core group of four people became a de facto board of directors operating the business of the food bank as the executive director, secretary, treasurer and overseer of developmental opportunities.   During 1987 local businesses and individuals began questioning why they weren’t seeing their donations of particular types of food being distributed and what was happening with their donations of money.  Explanations were made concerning the arrangement with Flathead County Surplus Food Bank in Kalispell and that all of the contributions to the Whitefish Food Bank were pooled with those taken in by the Kalispell organization.

These explanations were not well received by many of our local benefactors and pointed comments were received that made it clear the locals were not interested in supporting the type of arrangement we had found ourselves in with the Kalispell establishment.  It was therefore decided the Whitefish Food Bank should become an independent entity.  The organization was incorporated as the North Valley Food Bank, Inc. (NVFB) in July, 1988.

There were four individuals installed on the initial Board of Directors at the organizational meeting.  The corporation became a recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in August, 1990.  Currently, there are eight individuals serving on the Board of Directors of NVFB.  All of the members of our Board of Directors and Executive Director are local residents who volunteer their time.  NVFB continues to be operated solely by unpaid volunteers.  Many of these individuals have received awards for community service.