November 23, 2018
Writer: Bryanna Willis

It’s Thanksgiving, a time for gathering and for family. For many though the holidays can be a hard time.

Adam Walker Eastern Idaho branch manager for the Eastern Idaho Food Banks and Jonna Boote Development Coordinator from the Eastern Idaho Food Bank

The Idaho Food Bank is the largest distributor of free food assistance in Idaho. They have three warehouse locations, one is Boise, one is Lewiston and one in Pocatello where Walker works.

Under the Pocatello branch they cover 16 counties thousands of pounds of food is donated and distributed each year.

The Idaho food bank uses partner pantries to distribute the food that the Idaho food bank collects, the food bank has many different programs targeting different populations and needs

One program the Idaho Food Banks run is called the Backpack program.

“This program was set up to address the needs of school children who are food insecure on the weekends,” Walker said. “It’s essentially a prebuilt kit that is available to different school that are signed up with the program and those kits are given out to children on a Friday.”

The food bank also operates a program for senior citizen who are food insecure to get the food they need as well. This program is called CSFP, or commodity supplemental food package.

A major concern in Idaho is helping those who live in rural areas and might not have the means to get to a food bank, to target this problem they have a mobile pantry that will go to many different places.

“Right now we dispatch to 15 mobile pantry sites per month,” Walker said. “the thing about food insecurity is that it doesn’t really matter where it is located, it just exists, it geographically makes no difference.

When a family is living in a rural area it might even be harder for them since they might have to spend the money they would be using for healthy foods on gas money, utilities or medical bills.

“food is often the first thing that is cut from the budget when there is a situation and somebodies financial status,” walker said. “that is why we don’t judge anyone who is looking for food assistance and we don’t require documentation to prove that status because you could be somebody who is helping one day and then the next the one needing that help.”

The Idaho food bank has been around for a long time, and the numbers show just how much Idaho needs them.

In 1984 the Food Bank was started and in 1985 they distributed 255,000 pounds of food and in 2018 they are close to 19 million pounds of food. They serve 179,000 people monthly state wide.

1 in 8 Idahoans are food insecure and 1 in 6 children in Idaho are food insecure. Meaning they are not sure when their next meal will come from.

The Idaho food bank itself has changed much over the years, they used to mainly used canned or dry goods, but now they are fresh foods as well. With those fresh food the Idaho Food Bank is looking to help others get out of the situations they are in.

The food bank offers cooking classes to help those who don’t make as much learn how to find and cook nutritious foods.

“Instead of just providing a hand out, we are providing a hand up,” Boote said. “These classes are very interactive, we are actually cooking meals during these classes and we are talking about how to make these healthy choices and how to identify what items are healthier and how to identify them as well.”

The Idaho Food Bank is audited as a top charity for 9 years because of how they use their money and resources. This means that any who wish to donate to the cause can know that their money is going directly to where they intend for it to go. To learn more about the Idaho food bank go to their website at idahofoodbank.org