Lunch with a Side of Love: #projectlovebillings

August 2020 | by michael j. hitchcock, photos by lovely hitchcock

Montana loves to give. Prime example: Sarah Moyers, the founder of #projectlovebillings, a charitable effort to provide free meals to those in need. Entrepreneur, philanthropist, wife, and mother, Sarah is emblematic of the Montana spirit of giving and fits rather well into our regional culture of providing a hand up for those who need a little assistance now and then.

Originally from Oregon, Sarah’s family settled in Montana after her husband, Nate, was offered a nursing position with the Crow Agency. Previously involved in Head Start work as well as food service, Sarah decided to become a stay-at-home mom and raise their three children near the Huntley area. Browsing through social media posts one day, she noted a pattern of local workers desiring coffee deliveries. Sarah immediately responded by creating and running a small business out of her home, delivering fresh coffee on-demand. Coffee begat salads, salads begat cold wraps and other lunches, and Project Lunch was born.

From the beginning, Project Lunch has focused on delivering healthy, simple meals using natural ingredients. Sarah prefers to source as many ingredients as she can from the Montana community, partnering with several local farms, including Swanky Roots, Maria's River Farms, and Yellowstone Valley Food Hub (to name a few). She has always been committed to making sure her customers get the highest quality, freshest, and most nutritious ingredients available.

Sarah continued running her business out of her home, but as orders rapidly increased in the Billings area, she decided she needed more space. In February of this year, she hired two employees and moved operations, renting a space at Miss Gigi's Sweets on 2nd Avenue North; about the time COVID-19 was beginning to spread throughout the world rapidly.

Due to her previous experience as a Head Start worker, Sarah became increasingly concerned about the welfare of displaced schoolchildren who had previously been dependent upon school lunches. Because of her history in the field of education, she knew that many students rely heavily upon local schools' meals. About 14.4% of Montana schoolchildren's families exist just below the poverty line, with many receiving state benefits in the form of reduced pricing or completely free lunches. Unable to attend school for an indefinite time, some of those children could miss out on the nutrition they need to develop and grow adequately.

Upon hearing Governor Bullock’s order to close schools across the state, Sarah immediately dropped everything she was doing and went shopping. Although she was unsure exactly how to proceed, she knew that she had to provide lunches for families with children in need. She bought a supply of nutritious foods and then looked for ways to make a positive difference during the impending crisis.

She found a Facebook Page called “I’ll Help – Billings” and began offering free lunches for children who needed them. Her first day, she delivered almost 20 lunches. Today, under the name #projectlovebillings and with the help of volunteer drivers, Moyers delivers about 200 free lunches each day to help local foster families. As of June 19, 2020, #projectlovebillings had provided 12,749 lunches to hungry families. Her efforts are financially supported through community donations primarily channeled via her website www.projectlunch.biz

Sarah is working with a team of like-minded people to decide how to continue helping feed our community. She is working hard to prepare for the next wave of the pandemic that is expected to occur this fall. She wants to expand #projectlovebillings to feed even more people in the region, possibly transforming it into a non-profit organization that would allow rapid growth in both size and scope. She's also considering opening a "pay-what-you-can" restaurant with a focus on providing quality, healthy food which people of any income can sit down together and enjoy. "This would be a place of diversity and unity where anyone from any status can sit down and enjoy good food with good people," says Sarah. Still, in the idea stage, this is only one of several other possibilities that Sarah and her team are currently brainstorming.

Whichever direction #projectlovebillings takes, Sarah is determined to lead with her heart as she fills the stomachs of Montanans who need a little boost.

To be a part of this incredible endeavor, stop by www.projectlunch.biz and click on the #projectlovebillings tab. You can donate directly to the project or help out by purchasing a #projectlovebillings coffee mug or t-shirt. Either way, you can help make a difference.

Originally printed in the August 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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