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“Awareness”: A nonviolent protest held at the Billings Food Bank



Billings, Montana – Protesters braved the chilly weather on Saturday morning to raise attention to a problem that they claim has been ongoing at the Billings Food Bank for several decades.

Late in the month of September, there was a story about a petition that had been created in an effort to get Sheryle Shandy, the director of the food bank for many years, fired. This came about as a result of allegations of misuse of stale food made by volunteers and customers of the food bank.

“I worked here for three weeks and I saw first-hand at the front desk the abuse. So I quit a couple of days after I saw what was going on. I couldn’t be silent about it, so I crafted a letter explaining that I got hired and worked and what kind of abuses I saw during my time there,” said Ryan Johnson, a former food bank employee, on Saturday. “I think Sheryle not being there would be the best thing. The board’s not going to do that, and I don’t know why. They’re protecting something. When there’s millions of dollars involved, that’s going to be protected.”

According to Johnson, the purpose of the demonstration was to raise awareness, regardless of whether the board decides to fire Shandy.

“I think awareness of what is happening there in the building and then just getting the word out that there are other places people can go to do good things for other people, that’s the main goal here,” Johnson said. “We are showing support for the people that are being verbally abused by coming in here and using the services. We feel like they need to be treated better. There are a lot of other issues within that building that need to be addressed. But we want to show support and have a voice for people who may not have that voice, or have tried to have the voice and have gone nowhere with it.”

Shandy had earlier stated that the food bank was “doing its best” and that she was aware of the concerns. She also acknowledged that she had heard them.

“I’d like for them to walk in our shoes for just 10 minutes,” Shandy said in late September. “See how we’re treated with the folks that come in and think that this is an entitlement program – which it isn’t.”

The demonstration included a donation area for other nearby NGOs, and it was planned to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donation boxes were available on-site for Family Promise, Family Services, Tumbleweed, and St. Vincent DePaul. Johnson said, “(Sheryle) has stated she’s not going anywhere.” “So the point being, we might not be able to change that fact, but we can change the fact that people can donate to other services around town and make a difference that way.”







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