“It’s a feel good thing,” Kathy Sikorski said about donating lentils to people in need. “There’s just all these hungry people.”
Kathy and Jerry Sikorski have been raising lentils for about 25 years at their farm between Ekalaka and Baker. They usually sell them in Great Falls. From there, the lentils are distributed all over.
But with so many going hungry, even in Southeast Montana, Sikorski explained, they wanted to help. Food security has become even more of a concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, and donating some of their surplus of lentils seemed like a good way to offer support. A conversation Sikorski had with a friend in Bozeman led to a recent plane trip where they delivered 450 pounds of lentils. The lentils were then distributed around the Bozeman area.
“They’re a good all-around source of proteins and carbs,” she said. “They’re high in fiber and easy to digest. It’s a great food.”
Sikorski said that lentils are also versatile. They can be used in soups and salads, cook in about 20 minutes and don’t need to be soaked. One place that received their lentils even uses them in tacos and burritos
Last year Sikorskis harvested one million pounds of lentils off of 700 acres that were planted. They usually get about 1,200 to 1,500 pounds per acre, but 2019 was a good year. They can sell them, but are donating large amounts all over Montana and surrounding states.
Sikorskis have committed to donating 1,800 pounds of lentils so far. In addition to the 450 pounds that went to the Bozeman area, they are donating to Helena, Missoula, Billings and even the Black Hills of South Dakota. Their trip to Billings includes eight different drop off locations and will require a pickup since they can only carry a maximum of 450 pounds on their plane.
“We’re taking 900 pounds to Billings in the pickup this weekend. We’ll haul it all over,” Sikorski said.
The lentils are going to any place that wants and needs them; places like food banks, the Salvation Army, Spread the Word 406 and the men’s and women’s shelters in Yellowstone County. Additionally, some are headed to Hardin and the Crow Reservation.
“Some of these places depend on people bringing stuff in,” she said. One such place in Southeast Montana is currently serving as many as 600 meals per day.
Their biggest expense in donating is the delivery, but it’s worth the cost to provide something that many need but maybe can’t afford. “We take care of each other in Southeast Montana,” Sikorski said.