Local food banks gear up for holiday season

Posted at 3:47 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 17:47:11-05

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The holidays are usually a busy time of year for local food banks, but this year is even busier than usual.

According to the Hunger Coalition in Blaine County, they've been handling an unprecedented need for food since the start of the pandemic.

"Right now we're still serving two to three times the amount of people that we have in previous years," said Mary Simms with the Hunger Coalition. "To date, we've served 1 in 4 people, or 25 percent, of Blaine County."

As Idaho News 6 has reported, it's 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 Kristen McMahon, the Communications and Development Supervisor for the Hunger Coalition. "Definitely surprising to most people. When they think of Blaine County they think of the affluence, the beautiful landscapes, the resort."

Usually, the Hunger Coalition would hand out Thanksgiving packages with all the fixings at their food pantry, but this year the process looks a little different.

"We've had to completely streamline our distribution process. It's a curbside pickup," Simms explained. "We are pre-packing fresh food boxes and pantry staples and what we're going to do is on Monday we're going to have our thanksgiving food distribution with our regular distribution."

Over in the Magic Valley, the Idaho Foodbank and their partners are also gearing up for the holiday. Many of them are doing curbside pickups as well.

"Definitely taking all the precautions that are needed amongst the pandemic and doing things socially distanced and trying to stay outside as often as possible," said Katie Barnhill, a nutrition education specialist with the Idaho Foodbank.

Both the Hunger Coalition and the Idaho Foodbank says they've been able to meet the unprecedented need for food thanks to donations from the community. They're doing everything they can to make sure everyone who needs food gets it.

"Our partners have mentioned to me that a lot of families or individuals are experiencing hunger for the first time and they're not sure where to go or if there's help for them," Barnhill said. "We want to emphasize that we're here to help and our partners are here to help."

If you're in need of food, the Idaho Foodbank has a food locator on their website.