Missoula Food Bank Limits Access To Food, Requires Medical Device
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Several people at the Wyoming Street Missoula Food Bank witnessed two incidents of individuals being ejected from the facility this morning including one person who was escorted out by Missoula Police.
Food bank employees called 911 after two individuals refused to put on a mask inside the facility. The two clients shared that employees initially allowed them to enter, submit a questionnaire, and even allowed one of the individuals to gather food without a mask before being ejected.
Service Team Manager Caitlyn Taix confronted one client as they were gathering food. Taix said that the individual would either need to wear a mask or wait outside for employees to provide a box of food. Traditionally, Missoula Food Bank clients are allowed to choose their own selection of food. Under Missoula Food Bank’s mask policy, clients who do not wear a mask are discriminated against and do not get the same opportunity as masked clients to choose their food.
The client was forced to abandon the food they had gathered and left without receiving any food. “I’ve never had a problem before,” the client said. “I’ve never seen this woman Caitlyn before. Everyone else was polite and courteous. I don’t know where I’m going to get supplemental food. Missoula Food Bank was the most convenient,” they said. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back.”
The other individual was also confronted by Taix and another food bank employee. Employees told the client that they would also need to either wear a mask or wait outside. The client refused to leave telling employees that they just wanted to gather food items “like everybody else.”
After repeated refusals to either mask or wait outside, Taix and the other employee called 911. The Police arrived shortly after and removed the food bank client from the building.
A poster on the front door states that, “Per Missoula County Health Department and CDC Guidance MASKS REQUIRED at all times inside the Food Bank.”
The Missoula County Health Department rescinded their face mask mandate in May, updating it to make masks “strongly recommended,” but not “required.” The county’s new guidance came two days after the passage of HB-257 (PDF), which limits the authority of local health officers to impose mask mandates.
The food bank poster says the mask policy is effective July 29th “until further notice.”
Another law, HB-501, states that public places paid for (even in-part) by tax-payer money may not lawfully trespass someone who lacks proof of vaccination status or refuses to wear a medical device such as a mask.
In 2019, Missoula County awarded $800,000 in public grants to various non-profit groups in Missoula through their Community Assistance Fund. Missoula Food Bank received $47,500 dollars from the Missoula County Community Assistance Fund in 2019.
In January, Missoula Food Bank Executive Director Aaron Brock threatened to pull food bank operations in Lolo if the Lolo Community Center joined a lawsuit against Missoula County challenging their mask mandates and capacity restrictions.
We asked the Montana Food Bank Network if they had comment regarding the incident and if they have a list of Montana food banks that do not require masks. Montana Food Bank Network CEO Gayle Carson stated that, “we do not set policies for any of our network partners regarding COVID protocols.” Carson did not immediately provide a list of Montana Food Bank Network partners that do not require masks.
We also asked Missoula Food Bank’s Executive Director for comment on the incident and if it was the policy of Missoula Food Bank to have employees call 911 when a client does not wear a mask. We will update readers when they respond.
UPDATED (08/21/2021 @ 10:01am): Article updated to reflect comments from Montana Food Bank Network CEO Gayle Carson.
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