MISSOULA – As part of the University of Montana commitment to supporting local food and business services, UM Dining’s Bear Hugs program is finding ways to incorporate more local products into its care packages.
Started nearly 14 years ago, the Bear Hugs Program brings joy to students, parents and the UM community by letting customers send a student, co-worker or professor a care package. Each care package is carefully designed for an occasion, ranging from birthdays and holidays to a stressful finals week.
Yellowstone Snack Mix and Kracklin’ Kamut are examples of local products now being included.
“We really looked at everything we’re currently offering and replacing everything we can with a local product,” said Victoria Bigelow, project coordinator of Bear Hugs at UM Dining. “What we can’t get local we’re looking to do organic or fair-trade.”
As part of its menu change, the Bear Hugs Program will feature two new hugs: the “Huckleberry Hug,” which includes fudge and chocolate grizzly bears with huckleberries harvested in Kalispell, and the “Last Best Hug,” which includes a variety of snacks procured from Missoula, Bozeman and the on-campus bakery.
“All of our snacks are Montana-made and delicious,” said Bigelow, citing a list of locally bought ingredients that included tortilla chips and salsa from Casa Pablos, Kettle Corn from Korn Utopia, GEOs Coffee from Treeline Coffee, chewy granola from Chuck and James, and chocolate from Posh Chocolat, among many more.
The Bear Hugs Program has long been a staple of UM Dining’s commitment to building stronger relationships with students and families and to build campus identification and the “home-away-from-home” feeling for its students. Two of the most popular Bear Hugs, the Hug from Home and the Birthday Bash, often are gifted by families whose sons and daughters are spending their first semester away from home. Other popular hugs include the UM Farm to College Rise and Shine Hug, Study Hug, Movie Night Hug, Healthy Hug, Heartwarming Hug and Get Well Hug.
“It absolutely makes my job worth it to be on the phone with parents who are just overjoyed to send a surprise birthday cake to their student,” Bigelow said. “I also am really thankful for the opportunity to work and partner with local businesses in Montana to include their locally crafted products in Bear Hugs packages.”
Bigelow said she wants to provide sustainable offerings from local shops to bring the highest quality snacks and treats to campus.