Sunday, January 19, 2020
Hunger Coalition Reaps Lots of Greens from a Generous Crowd
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Bill Kirby and Liz Kirby, who recently made Sun Valley their full-time home, said it’s important to take care of people in the community.
 
Friday, December 6, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Lois Adrian’s hands were red from clapping by the time the evening wound down.

And Hunger Coalition representatives walked away from their holiday fundraiser at The Argyros Wednesday night with a big vote of confidence for a new facility for which they hope to break ground in May 2020.

As the crowd clapped on, patrons pledged $450,000 with the help of three matching gifts—a big jump from last year’s $350,000.

 
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The Hunger Coalition’s Board Chair Paul Ahern showed a rendering of the new property provided by Holis Rumpeltes Architects.
 

“You’re not just helping to feed people meals. You’re creating a new future and a new dynamic,” said R.L. Rowsey, who led a vigorous paddle up effort that started with four $25,000 gifts.

Board President Paul Ahern noted that the Hunger Coalition has shared more food with people than ever this past year. And its Bloom Truck experienced a “super bloom,” with 300 children chasing free lunches and library books.

Yet, one in three Wood river valley residents struggle to find healthy food in a county that has the eighth highest food costs in the country. And it doesn’t help that Blaine County has the highest cost of living in Idaho but below-average wages.

And, while a United Way report estimates that 8,000 county residents are food insecure or one crisis away from food uncertainty, only half of those are currently receiving food assistance.

 
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Liz Pederson was among those passing around vegetable skewers and other foodstuff donated by The Haven and an array of lemon bars and chocolate truffles.
 

That has led the Hunger Coalition to launch a significant growth effort in 2020, which includes the purchase of the new property, Ahern noted.

“But we cannot lower or lessen our level of service while we pursue our growth initiative,” he added.

Among those who have received assistance is Jeff Emerick. The young man recounted how he had grown up in the Wood River Valley and felt like he was on the top of the world when he got the opportunity to move back.

But debt mounted after he was besieged by medical problems. And, while he worked as a firefighter for the Ketchum Fire Department, he was paid-on-call and had to camp out with his dog to be close to the station.

 
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“They want to do more and they will with every dollar we give,” R.L. Rowsey told the crowd.
 

“I didn’t know what to do. Then I found the Hunger Coalition,” he said. “They got me together with other organizations. And I got my self-respect back—I realized it could have happened to anyone. Today I’m in a stable place and graduating from College of Southern Idaho. I feel like I’ve made it.”

The 13,000-square foot Clearwater Landscaping building that the Hunger Coalition purchased across the street from their current headquarters in south Bellevue will triple the size of their current space. That’ll be a boon for an organization that saw nearly 800 people walk its small grocery aisle during the month of April alone.

 

“We’re bursting at the seams,” said the Hunger Coalition’s Development Supervisor Kristin McMahon. “We often have a line out the door and people standing shoulder to shoulder.”

 
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Kiki Martin,Bev Robinson and Kaye Kearns were among those turning out for Wednesday’s fundraiser.
 

The expansion will provide additional office space for an organization that is running out of room. It’ll provide a space for children and dedicated partner space available to rent.

And it will provide the opportunity to provide a commercial community kitchen and dining area.

“We tried to run a community kitchen awhile back in which people would come together to cook and share their favorite meals,” McMahon said. “People really got behind it. Then we found that the kitchen was not up to code so we lost out on a really uniting moment. It was heartbreaking,” McMahon said.

The commercial kitchen will provide the opportunity for drop-in cooking classes and drop-in meals.

“It’ll make healthy eating that much more accessible,” McMahon said. “And we could even have people sitting around a table united in community-led advocacy, potentially writing legislators or getting out the vote to help address system-level barriers to healthy food access.”

Outside the building are four acres on which the Hunger Coalition will be able to plant raised garden beds and build greenhouses to extend the growing season year-round and allow volunteers to keep on volunteering for veggies during winter months when Bloom Farm is dormant.

McMahon said much of the inspiration for the changes has come from the Community Food Centres of Canada,

“But we haven’t found any model quite as multi-dimensional as ours,” she added.

HUNGER COALITION BY THE NUMBERS

The summer food program dished up 4,941lunches to 311 kids—a 24 percent increase over last year.

The Health Food Pantry fed more than 1,600 people in Fiscal Year 2019.

Nearly 200 people volunteered for veggies at the Bloom Farm, and more than 300 youth engaged in garden education.

 

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