“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and your feed him for a lifetime.”
Michael McCormick relocated to Livingston to pursue his love of fly-fishing, but now spends most of his time casting towards the Livingston Food Resource Center. The Center, opened two years ago, includes a food pantry, community kitchen and gathering space to nourish Livingston and Park County.
As Executive Director, McCormick best conveys his goal in feeding the hungry, “I am not interested in band-aids. I want to develop the vaccine and the cure.” The traditional food bank concept of simply distributing donated foods did not align with his concept of solving hunger in the long term. He wanted to know, “What are the root causes and how to resolve the issue.”
“You cannot separate hunger from poverty and cannot feed people out of poverty. You cannot separate poverty from economic development,” McCormick shared. He wanted the Food Resource Center to play an important role in community development. Not only could healthy food be purchased, with consultation from MSU Bozeman dietetic interns, but also distributed to those in need. Food related economic development efforts would incentivize new jobs and training in the food service industry.
On interview day, sun streamed through the windows into a charming store with neatly stacked shelves of canned and packaged goods. A bank of freezers lined the back wall. In the space, a welcoming sense of pride of ownership resided.
According to McCormick, approximately 80% of the adults served by the Food Pantry need assistance because they are unemployed or underemployed. The Food Pantry is reminiscent of a gourmet grocery store found in a big city. McCormick said, “Our food pantry is the friendliest, warmest grocery store in Montana,” and joked it was a rustic version of New York Manhattan’s Dean and DeLuca. Fresh baked wheat bread from the kitchen graced open shelves aside homemade soups and chilis portioned into clear containers in the freezer. A selection of meats from local purveyors lined the racks. Food and products were available for babies as well as for the feline and canine members of the family.
Upon entering the Community Kitchen the aroma of baking bread immediately embraced the visitor. The state-of-the-art kitchen shined with brightness and a sense of order. High windows provided natural light into two distinct spaces. One side was devoted to large production baking with convections ovens, a commercial-sized mixer and a broad worktable. The other side housed steam kettles and a vacuum packaging machine. In the back storage area, a commercial pasta machine along with a bottle-filling machine for sauces and salsas stood ready for use.
Sissy Hampton volunteered at the old food pantry when it was housed in an automotive garage location. These days she bakes the 1½-pound loaves of wheat bread made from Montana grains in the Community Kitchen. About 60 loaves come out of the oven weekly. Today she supplied smaller one-pound loaves for a special order, and with a smile shared, “There’s nothing like that warm loaf of bread coming out of the oven.”
For local entrepreneurs Dan Rice of Jumping Off Point, owner of an adventure provisions store and Suzanne Klaric of Dolina Pasta, the Community Kitchen offered startup opportunities. Rice utilized the kitchen to process the foods he sells for outdoor dining (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jumpingoffpointlivingston/ and Website: https://www.jumpingoffpointmt.com/). His locally sourced products are proportioned for serving sizes resulting in convenience and the least amount of waste. Klaric sells her pasta at the Bozeman Farmers Market (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dolinapasta/ and Website: https://www.dolinapasta.com/). On the day before market, she uses the pasta machine to make linguini and raviolis. The availability of a commercial kitchen has afforded both businesses opportunities without the outlay of capital for equipment, while paying the Community Kitchen a reasonable rent for the time they are in production.
Klaric lauded not only having the space and tools available for the success of her business, but shared how McCormick and his referrals have provided mentoring and advice, and aided her in pursuit of a wholesale license. “This is the best place to start a food business,” Klaric testified enthusiastically, “I’m telling everyone.” Rice expressed with appreciation how the Food Center benefited all as the “Community project proceeds go back to the community.”
As a licensed food processing, catering and meal preparation facility, the kitchen supports entrepreneurs and existing food businesses for the development, testing, processing and marketing of food products. Programs such as the 12-week “Cook Up a Career” develop professional cooking while ServSafe classes certify restaurant workers for safe food handling. Children benefit from nutritious breakfasts and supplemental weekend bags of food, and can learn to cook in cooking camps, while Seniors receive monthly food boxes. The Community Garden encourages the growth of fresh produce for locals and their families.
With continuing efforts at the Livingston Food Resource Center, Michael McCormick’s goal of eliminating band-aids are becoming reality, as his vaccination efforts immunize those in need. Even though he may no longer be flying fishing the waters nearby, he’s making the right cast for Livingston and Park County.