BILLINGS - Cole’s Pantry Inc. is helping to feed 1,500 students across Montana, one backpack at a time. 

According to Feeding America, over 11,000 Montanans are facing hunger. 35,000 of those individuals are children.

Allison Wipf, a student representative on the board of Cole's Pantry Inc., says the organization began with one child's love and concern for others.

“Cole Pelican was a young boy and he saw a need in his friends and he would take food from his pantry and bring them because his concern was for his friends who weren’t getting enough food,” Wipf said.

Cole passed away in 2009.

Wipf says Cole's sister, Fallon, felt the best way to honor her brother was to help hungry children in rural communities.

“It started in 2010 with a $500 donation from Cole’s Western Wishes, which paid for all the food and stuff. That first year they were feeding 11 children from eight families,” she said.

Since 2010, Wipf says they've been able to expand Cole's Pantry Inc. to 22 schools and 17 different communities across the state.

“It’s incredibly amazing because the smaller schools typically have a higher number of students that go hungry, statistically. So, it’s amazing that we’re reaching out to the schools that need the extra help,” she said.

Wipf has been a part of Cole's Pantry Inc. for the last two years now. She says, every Thursday students will help to fill the backpack with food for their fellow students.

“We try to put a dairy sort of product in there, and bread, fruits, vegetables and you know, stuff with lots of nutrition,” she said.

The program is fully operated by year-round donations of food and money, along with annual fundraisers.

“It’s amazing to see how many people chip in to help because it’s a small community and it could be anyone,” Wipf said.

Cole’s Pantry Inc. will hold their first golf tournament fundraiser at Eagle Rock Golf Course this Friday, June 11. You can learn more or sign-up for the event through their website at www.colespantryinc.com.

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