The Idaho Foodbank was privileged to be able to address the Senate Agriculture Affairs Committee on Thursday, Jan. 31. The committee got both a briefing on hunger in Idaho and an update on the agricultural partnerships that are helping to feed our hungry neighbors.
“The food bank world is changing dramatically,” explained Julie Pipal, the Foodbank’s Food Resource Manager. “The need for emergency food is outpacing current supply despite longstanding relationships with generous and critical donors. The agriculture industry is largely untapped and provides the potential to help us fill that gap. And who better than those whose job it is to feed people?
“Yet the demand for food assistance continues to grow in this challenging economic climate,” she said. “There are great opportunities, however, to build relationships with Idaho agriculture to feed our hungry neighbors.”
Julie offered the following examples of this important new collaboration:
* The Idaho beef industry established the model with Beef Counts. Since it was launched in 2010, the program’s donations have raised an amazing $200,000 and provided the equivalent of more than 404,000 3-ounce servings of beef.
* In 2011, the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee committed to monthly donations of onions during the season. To date we have received more than 180,000 pounds.
* 2012 began a new relationship with the Idaho Pork Producers. To date, members have donated animals and $400, and allied industry partners Gem Meat Packing Co. (processing and packaging) and Action Quality Printers (labels) ensured we could distribute 873 pounds of fresh pork.
* The Prison Farm Project at the South Idaho Correctional Institution in 2012 produced what will be the biggest yield in the farm’s three-year history – more than 184,000 pounds in green beans and potatoes. The success is credited to donations from Idaho businesses and the generosity and expertise of two veteran farmers from Kuna.
* The Berry Ranch increased the variety of donations to us this year by growing crops for The Idaho Foodbank. We saw a welcome abundance of fruits and vegetables such as summer squash, cucumbers and sweet corn totaling more than 188,000 pounds.
* The bean industry has stepped up to supply us with a nutritious protein in the form of split pintos. Through donations and special pricing, JP Wilson Co. of Twin Falls and Big D Ranch in Meridian, have helped us source and distribute more than six truckloads of Idaho-grown beans.
Foodbank President and CEO Karen Vauk explained the value of such programs as Picnic in the Park, Backpack and Cooking Matters.
“We’re working to move people to a place where they don’t need the Foodbank,” she said.
Wyatt Prescott, Executive Vice President of the Idaho Cattle Association, spoke warmly of his association with the Foodbank and the success of the Beef Counts program.
He has been moved, he said, by how often a “quiet, squinty-eyed cowboy” volunteered to donate to the program “because it was the right thing to do.”
Jon Watson, President of JC Watson Packing Co., told the committee how impressed he was with the Cooking Matters program. He also praised the Foodbank for making it so easy to donate onions.
Committee Chairman Steven Bair thanked the speakers. He said he had known little of what the Foodbank does and that he left the meeting impressed.