A sense of irony flooded through me as I sat down in a food
bank, eating lunch, to talk about the overwhelming number of hungry Idahoans.
When I learned that 221,800 Idahoans were experiencing food insecurity, I
looked down at my sandwich in disdain. How could it be that so many people in
my own backyard were often hungry?
The USDA coined a phrase to explain this on-going epidemic -
food insecurity - not knowing where your next meal might come from. The
shocking fact is one in eight Idahoans are food insecure. Worse yet, roughly
73,000 of them are children. Thankfully organizations like the Idaho Foodbank
reach into the far corners of Idaho to help fight these insecurities. I sat down
with The Idaho Foodbank President and CEO Karen Vauk and Development Manager
Carlyn Blake during the last Boise Young Professionals meeting.
Luckily, Blake explained the numerous programs The Idaho
Foodbank uses to alleviate the growing issue, and I was able to finish my
Backpack is a
program supplying children in need with food for the weekend. A six-week class, Cooking Matters,
teaches kids and adults how to cook healthy, low-budget meals. And Senior Nutrition
provides monthly food box delivery for seniors in need. These are the programs that make Idaho’s food
bank stand out in the community. Impressively, the organization supplied enough
food for nearly 16 million meals last year alone.
While I sat wide-eyed in our meeting, soaking up the
nobility of this organization, I couldn’t help but wonder where all this life-changing
food is stored. As we toured the massive warehouse, I finally understood. Pallets
of thousands of potatoes, cases of peanut butter and Costco-sized boxes of
apple sauce lined the shelves. With a refrigerator roughly the size of my
two-bedroom house and a freezer twice the size, the number of meals fed per
year seemed more plausible.
“It used to be about pounds. Now it’s all about nutrition,”
said Vauk. “It isn’t enough to simply feed people, but to supply them with
proper nutrition, that is our goal.” With that focus in mind, 75 percent of the
food coming into their warehouse is fresh or frozen and 25 percent is
shelf-stable. “Before we switched our
focus,” adds Vauk, “it used to be the other way around.”
As the largest free food distributor in the state, the Idaho
Food Bank has three locations across Idaho and partners with 400-plus schools
and food agencies — including Boise’s only Better Business Bureau accredited charity,
Boise Rescue Mission. It reaches all 44 counties in Idaho and relies heavily on
“If you’re passionate about food, nutrition or providing
basic needs, come to the Idaho Foodbank”, Blake said as she concluded her tour.
“We’ll sit down with you and help find the best department for you to volunteer
Before leaving, the group huddled in for a photo. As we
posed, I couldn’t help but feel thankful. I realized, I had the opportunity to
make a difference in others’ lives through the foodbank. I connected with Blake
before heading out the door to let her know she could count on me to help fill
a few volunteer voids. I am ecstatic to start volunteering for such an