A shift in circumstances can turn any household upside down. The economy, changes in benefits, cost of housing, or job loss all have the potential to put people at risk. The pandemic hit hard, creating even greater challenges for organizations that work every day to support those in need. In 2020, Helena Food Share saw a 40% increase in new customers each month on average who needed food assistance. According to Patty White, Communications Director, due to COVID restrictions, customers were no longer able to come into the pantry to shop. Therefore they transitioned from “Choice Shopping”, in which customers shopped pantry aisles like in a grocery store, to filling Grab-and-Go boxes. This method allowed customers to come to a window, tell how many people were in their household and pick up a box of food without going inside. On June 1st Choice Shopping resumed but they still offer Grab-and-Go boxes for those not wanting to shop inside. Food Drives play an important role in keeping pantry shelves stocked and boxes full for the 350 households, on average, served each week. With pandemic restrictions, it became necessary to switch from in-person and corporate Drives to online fundraising to purchase food. Fortunately, the most popular and biggest in-person Food Drive is back! On July 17th, thousands of people have the opportunity to donate canned goods during the Symphony Under the Stars at Carroll College. Throughout last year, Helena Food Share continued its “Kid Packs” program providing about 1100 packs of food each week to area schools so that at-risk children have food to eat over the weekend. Senior Citizens in need can find additional food assistance through the “Senior Commodities” program. “The Helena area community stepped up this last year to help meet the need,” said Ms. White. “It made a big difference. We appreciate the adjustments they made and especially their ongoing support as the need for food in our community continues.” Helena Food Share welcomes volunteers to help them meet their mission to create a hunger-free community. To volunteer, contact Volunteer Coordinator Cathy Rainsier at 406-443-3663. To make a donation or if you are in need of food go to helenafoodshare.org to learn more.