More than 1 in 10 Montanans struggled with food insecurity according to 2018 food insecurity data from the USDA Economic Research Service. Communities and organizations across our state are developing programs and tools to improve community food security and access through farmers markets, community donation gardens, food donation, food pantries, and additional community food programs. Montana State University Extension partners with communities and organizations working to provide Montanans with low food access with increased access to nutritious, locally produced food through the Growing Together Montana effort led by the Extension Nutrition Education and Master Gardener programs.

Important Definitions

Food access refers to the ability of people to obtain fresh, healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods through market and non-market resources. Non-market sources may include home production; food sharing; community gardens; community, school, and other meal programs; and emergency food resources. Challenges ro food access at an individual level may include inadequate income, health problems, and disability, limited time and resources to acquire and prepare healthy foods, lack of access to a kitchen and food preparation equipment, and lack of land and other resources to grow/raise food. At a community-level challenges may include an absence of nearby meal programs (espcially in the summer), and lack of community food spaces that include farm land, community gardens, farmers markets, shared kitchens, community meal sites, food pantries, etc.

Household food insecurity (as defined by the USDA) is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.

Household food security (as defined by the USDA) means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

MSU Extension Programs, Partnerships, and Resources

Growing Together Montana is a partnership of the Montana State University Extension Nutrition Education Program and Master Gardener program. With funding from SNAP-Education, the project supports donation gardens throughout the state. The goal of the project is to grow food for local pantries to help lower-income Montanans access fresh fruits and vegetables and support them in using the foods through nutrition education.

MSU Extension Resources:

Additional Resources

SNAP and locally grown produce. The ability of local food purchases using SNAP dollars is easier than ever. The resources below provide information on SNAP participation and farmers markets.


USDA ERS. Definition of Food Security.

Community Food Security PDF version

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