BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho — The Hunger Coalition is working on new ways to address the roots of food insecurity and is also working to reduce the stigma surrounding getting help.
Central to those efforts is the Bloom Community Food Distribution Center, which is under construction across the street from their old building.
"You can't beat the excitement of seeing something really remarkable go up across the street. Something you know will make a lasting impact on our community," said Kristen McMahon, the Communications and Development Supervisor for the Hunger Coalition.
As Idaho News 6 has reported, Blaine County is an area that's struggled with food insecurity long before the pandemic. Pre-COVID, the Hunger Coalition says their programs fed nearly 20% of the Blaine County community each year--and data suggests the number of those actually in need in the area is much higher than that.
"The United Way put out a survey that has said actually one in three people in Blaine County are considered food insecure, one crisis away," explained McMahon. "Definitely surprising to most people. When they think of Blaine County they think of the affluence, the beautiful landscapes, the resort."
McMahon says the high cost of living, coupled with low wage seasonal jobs, leaves a big chunk of people struggling to make ends meet.
"We actually have now the fifth-highest food costs in America. Hailey is home to the 9th greatest wealth inequality in the nation," McMahon said. "You might be above the poverty level in terms of income, but when it comes to the cost of living you're still experiencing hunger, food insecurity conditions...and there's a prevalence of low wage seasonal jobs to help support our tourist economy"
The center will be home to brand new programs aimed at fighting food insecurity. Some of those programs include a community garden and a food truck through a partnership with the library.
"We'll be able to harvest fresh vegetables in November in Idaho, which is pretty wild. We'll be able to take them over to the community kitchen and cook them up and share with one another," McMahon said. "This will truly be just like bright light and exciting and fresh. Good, healthy food, very participatory. Everyone is involved in the solution."
The Hunger Coalition has also broken ground on a new facility they hope will continue allowing them to serve their community.
The Hunger Coalition says the new facility, dubbed the Bloom Community Food Center, will include:
• A Community Kitchen & Dining Area
• Next-Gen Food Pantry
• Year-round Greenhouses & Raised Bed Gardens
• A Dedicated Community Partner Space
• Bloom Community Farm Expansion
The Bloom Community Food Center is scheduled to be finished early next year.
*Photo courtesy Hunger Coalition*