BELLEVUE, Idaho — The need for food in Blaine County is still higher than it was pre-pandemic, and The Hunger Coalition in Bellevue is taking a fresh approach to end hunger. The Hunger Coalition recently held a grand opening for their new Bloom Center, home to a commercial community kitchen, heated greenhouses, and larger warehouse space.
“We all know that food might bring folks here, but there is so much going on in people's lives that is leading them to need food in the first place,” said Kristin McMahon, a spokesperson for the Hunger Coalition.
McMahon said at the peak of the pandemic they were serving about quadruple the number of people. Currently, they are serving about double the number of people they did before the pandemic.
“The idea a lot of people have for food support was just you know a box of canned foods for people, but we knew that was not doing anything to solve hunger,” McMahon said.
Instead of taking a band-aid approach to solving the problem, the Hunger Coalition is grounding its work in social justice and getting at the root causes of hunger.
“We would love to someday address all the reasons people are coming here, to begin with,” McMahon said. “Ultimately not needing our services or maybe just need different services or just really evolving that approach.”
One of the root causes of hunger is the lack of affordable housing in the area, something Wood River Valley residents have been very vocal about in the last few months.
“Oftentimes people will starve in order to get their bills paid, meaning like rent or if they have medical bills,” said Jennifer Ringel a Hunger Coalition case manager.
Ringel said she helps those coming into the Bloom Center find local resources for various needs. Recently her caseload has consisted of people experiencing mental illness and housing issues.
“A lot of it has to do with looking for local resources and how we can start building those connections with other community members as well,” Ringel said.
As they work to end hunger, McMahon said they are replacing a box of canned goods with farm-fresh food and election ballots. So, the people they serve can have their voices heard in hopes of having their needs met.
“Continuously people have been struggling,” said Ringle. “And it’s only getting worse here.”