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Helena teens help provide free meals to area kids

Bella Shanight and Hadley McCutcheon
Melissa Fund Grant Letter
Breakfast Bag Donations
Posted at 6:17 PM, Jul 13, 2023

HELENA — It’s the middle of summer – the time of year when advocates say children are at the greatest risk for food insecurity. On Thursday, two incoming high school students put together a service project in Helena to help with that need.

Monday through Friday, Sodexo staff are at Memorial Park, handing out bags as part of the local free summer meals program. On this day, Bella Shanight and her cousin Hadley McCutcheon joined them, giving out more than 100 extra meals.

“I decided to do this because not everybody has food during the summer,” Bella said.

On Thursday morning, the two incoming Capital High freshmen packed 135 bags with breakfast food, with help from the staff at Capital. Each bag included a bagel, yogurt, a granola bar, fruit and orange juice. It took about 90 minutes to hand them all out.

Breakfast Bag Donations
Helena teens Bella Shanight and Hadley McCutcheon handed out free breakfast bags for local kids, including a bagel, yogurt, a granola bar, fruit and orange juice.

Kids participating in the summer meal program typically receive one lunch and one breakfast. Bella and Hadley’s bags were in addition to that.

When Bella had the idea for the project, she contacted “Project Illuminate,” a program that provides small grants to help youth with service projects like this. They awarded her $500 to make it happen.

Project Illuminate is sponsored by the Melissa Fund, a charitable foundation in New York. Bella’s mother is a friend of one of the organization’s founders, who started it to honor her sister after she died of skin cancer.

Melissa Fund Grant Letter
"Project Illuminate," sponsored by the Melissa Fund, awarded Helena teen Bella Shanight a $500 grant for her service project, providing free meals for local kids.

Bella and Hadley said it felt good to give this little bit of extra help to people in the community.

“It’s just cool that they get to have food now, so it’s nice to see that,” said Bella.

“We can just see that we can help people who need it,” Hadley added.

Summer meal distribution in Helena will continue through Aug. 11. You can find more information, including the meal pickup times and locations and how to register for the program, on the Helena Public Schools website.

Positively Montana