Missoula Wins Big During Can the Cats Food Fundraiser

Molly Kirkham, an AmeriCorps team leader with the Missoula Food Bank, looks over some of the 672,000 pounds of food donations produced by Can the Cats.

MISSOULA – It turns out a global pandemic can’t slow the generous beating heart of Griz Nation.

The University of Montana and the Missoula community handily defeated Montana State University and Bozeman during the annual Can the Cats food and donation drive to benefit area charities, which ran Nov. 6-20.

The Griz hauled in 671,707.9 pounds of food and monetary donations, while the Bobcats earned 404,183 pounds in food and money. For those keeping score at home, that’s a win margin of 267,525 pounds.

The combined effort raised more than 1 million pounds of food to benefit those in need in western Montana. UM last won the food drive competition in 2017. In the 21 years of the series, the Griz have won four times.

“There has just been so much enthusiasm and cooperation for this event,” said Hilary Rosa, a UM food pantry VISTA worker. “I think we were helped by an amazing social media campaign, which so many folks from UM and the greater Missoula community helped share.

“We also had a new esports competition between UM and MSU, and that was new and exciting, and it was nice to see so much participation from local businesses during that effort,” she said. “Ultimately, I think Can the Cats was great for coming together and boosting morale during these unprecedented times, and I think our community really understands that.”

It didn’t all come up roses and huckleberries for those west of the Divide. In the first video game Brawl of the Wild between the UM and MSU – using a game called “League of Legends” – the Cats defeated the Grizzly Esports team during online competition.

“I have to hand it to the Cats – they played well,” said Michael Cassens, director of UM Esports and an assistant professor for the University’s new game design and interactive media major. “But I think our communities are the ones that really won during this time.”

The esports portion of Can the Cats generated nearly $33,000 in donations. Cassens said the earnings resulted from a mixture of corporate and individual donors. Revenue also was collected from the UM Esports Twitch stream during the team’s Amateur Invitational, virtual Brawl of the Wild and other streaming events during the food drive.

UM Dining also collected $4,306 from generous patrons visiting food service locations. And the UM Food Pantry in the University Center collected 1,205 pounds in donations from multiple drop-off sites scattered across campus.

“When our local food bank needs help, our incredible community always comes through, and this year’s Can the Cats Food Drive was no different,” said Amanda Ceaser with the Missoula Food Bank & Community Center. “More people than ever before are using emergency food services, and at a time when we all want to come together, our community chose to rally and support our families, friends, neighbors and individuals struggling with hunger.”


Contact: Hilary Rosa, UM Food Pantry and MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA worker, 406-243-5125, rosa@mtcompact.org; Amanda Ceaser, events and marketing coordinator, Missoula Food Bank & Community Center, 406-549-0543 ext. 214, amanda@missoulafoodbank.org.