By Kelcie Moseley, Idaho Press-Tribune
Columbia High School student Emylee Tamura thought she wanted her senior project to revolve around dance.
Tamura is a member of the family that owns Tamura Farms, a large onion farm in Wilder. Donald Brown, food resource manager at the Idaho Foodbank, has been friends with the family for 25 years. Tamura mentioned the ideas she was kicking around for her senior project, and Brown realized it might be the perfect opportunity to start a bigger movement than just one project in one year.
“I said, ‘What if we start a senior agriculture project where we could make this a continuous thing, year after year?’” Brown said.
The idea was to collect as many donated onions — including onions from Tamura’s family farm — from around the Treasure Valley as possible to give to the Idaho Foodbank. Tiffany Tamura, Emylee’s mother, said about 1 billion pounds of onions are shipped out of Idaho and Eastern Oregon each season from 36 shippers and 300 growers. Emylee called 15 shippers in the Valley to ask about donations, and nine said yes.
Once a month from January to April, Emylee dropped by to pick up donations from each supplier.
In the process, she learned more about her family’s business — and about the working world.
“I learned how to manage my time wisely, because this was such a time-consuming project,” she said. “It really opened my eyes to what an actual job is like.”
While onions might not seem like the type of food people would seek out at a food bank, Brown said it’s just the beginning of what he hopes the project will become. He has received donations of peas and lentils, 120,000 pounds of beans from local growers, stock for chicken broth and hopefully potatoes from growers in eastern Idaho.
“You put onions with all that, and you basically have a meal,” Brown said. “The onions are a condiment to add to those things. (Onions) may not be the kind of thing people wait all week for, but it’s good, nutritious, healthy food, and if we can supply that stuff, they can pick up all of it and they have a nutritious dinner.”
Though Emylee is headed off to college this fall, she does have a successor lined up. Her cousin, Devin Fisher, will pick up where she left off for his senior project at Homedale High School, hopefully with even greater numbers of donated food. Since it took a little bit longer to get started on Emylee’s project, she started picking up donations after the height of harvest.
“I plan on attacking it right after harvest. As soon as they get done harvesting (around October), I’ll start going around and getting donations,” he said.
Brown hopes the cycle will continue long after Fisher and extend into schools around the Valley for different foods. He’s still working on the details, but the first round showed promise.
“This is a pilot project, the way I’m looking at it, and I’m going to use this and put out the word of the success of this and be able to take it to other segments of agriculture and move it forward,” Brown said.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to get kids involved and be part of it and be hands on.”
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