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Staff Spotlight – Karen Vauk | President and CEO


How long have you worked for The Idaho Foodbank?

I have been serving The Idaho Foodbank as its President and CEO for 11 years.

How would you describe The Idaho Foodbank to someone who is new to Idaho?

The Idaho Foodbank is an independent, nonprofit serving the state of Idaho by addressing food insecurity along with reinforcing resilience and health.

Integrity, dignity, agility and collaboration are listed as core values for The Idaho Foodbank. Which trait is the most important?

They are all essential. If I am forced to pick one, I would say that dignity plays a very prominent role in our daily work. It is the characteristic that we lead with as we reach out to fellow neighbors going through a tough time. It is the approach we take when working with our generous donors. And it is the principal that we embrace when working together as a team.

What is the greatest joy in your work? 

I get to witness the magic that takes place when one human being touches another. On one side you see the incredible difficulties of people in need of help. On the other side you experience compassionate individuals and corporations who want to be a part of the solution. Extraordinary things happen when both sides are brought together.

The true joy occurs when someone struggling realizes that they are not alone; that some else cares. It is hard to describe and impossible to measure, but it is real. That is the best part of my job.

You have been at the helm of the organization for over a decade. Does anything surprise you?

The global pandemic produced a recent “aha” moment for me. I have never doubted the strength and power of our team, but I was truly overwhelmed at how quickly and expertly they adapted to each challenge every day. Without question or complaint, each person willingly stepped up to do whatever was required to meet the incredible need we were seeing in food demand. I am so proud of our team.

Has hunger ever touched your life?

My mother and father divorced when I was a young kid growing up in Boise. My mother suddenly found herself a single parent with six children. Although she worked full time, her wages did not pay enough to provide for all of us. But as a child you don’t necessarily realize that you are food deprived. You simply think that everyone had pancakes for dinner or that rice with tomato sauce was a full meal.