JEROME, Idaho — The recipients of a federal food program called Farmers Feeding Families are saying "Thank You" in a unique way.
As Idaho News 6 has reported, to help our farmers who've been hit hard by the impacts of the pandemic, the USDA purchased hundreds of millions of dollars worth of fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, and dairy products to be given away for free without eligibility requirements or documentation.
The recipients of the program are working to create a display full of hundreds of American flags with a message of thanks. Each flag represents a Jerome family the program helped feed.
"It's just a small act of gratitude that each one of our families can demonstrate how, in our diversity, we can still have unity in our gratitude," explained Jeff Schroeder, with Martha and Mary's Food Ministries in Jerome.
Each week, Schroeder and a group of volunteers distribute the boxes full of produce provided by the program. They say they've seen a huge surge in folks needing help because of the pandemic.
In the month of August alone, they say their team served more than 700 families in the Jerome area.
"It's been huge. It's not only the need of the food, it's the need of socializing, it's the need of coming together to be with other people. Just feeling comfortable," Schroeder said.
A group particularly in need are seniors.
"There's a lot of older people that need to choose between medicine and food and a lot of time they'll have to choose the medicine. So having this food available to them helps them," Schroeder said.
Schroeder says often, seniors don't feel comfortable asking for help--but he says it's important not to feel embarrassed.
"We're here just to provide the gifts we've been given and to share those gifts, and not waste food," Schroeder said. "That's another part of this program--there's a lot of food that goes to waste--so this food isn't going to waste it's going to people that are in need."
James Fetterly knows firsthand what it's like to battle COVID-19 and he says he's grateful for the support he received while he was recovering.
"When they put you in that hospital room and they shut that door, you're in there by yourself. All you can do then is lay there and think--so it's scary," Fetterly said. "After you lay in that hospital bed for a while, it makes you start thinking about your friends and the people that are helping you to survive. They give out food and they're not afraid to give out a lot of it. What else can you ask for?"
If you need help, there are lots of food pantries in and around the Magic Valley! Click here for a map.