BUTTE — What started as a delivery service during the height of the pandemic turned into a community pantry to help those in need.
Valerie Nielson and Kali Smelich started with the idea of feeding children and teens that relied on school breakfast and lunches. It eventually evolved into a permanent pantry idea but COVID set them back so they had to adapt in order to help those that needed it.
"We would deliver with contact-free delivery and get them what they needed to get through when they couldn’t leave the house or susceptible to getting sick or they had been laid off and so we kind of filled that void for people during the pandemic," said Neilson.
According to Census.gov, the poverty rate in Butte-Silver Bow is 17.1%.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is 5.2%.
The pantry is stocked up with nonperishable foods like cans, rice, and even pet food.
"As long as there’s room and it’ll fit, you can pretty much put anything in here that isn’t going to go bad and that people would use," said Nielson.
"I think too if it says to keep it room temperature, maybe not those items because there are some that say that and this obviously it’s going to get a little warm in there," said Smelich.
During the pandemic, Nielson and Smelich’s delivery service would get calls from those who knew someone who needed help but was embarrassed to ask for it.
"This gives a level of anonymity to the people who need help. They can come and take what they need without having to feel bad about getting the help," said Nielson.
There are plans to open more pantries around Butte. One in Uptown and one to the east and west of Butte.