Connect Blog

Idaho Foodbank provides 63,000 food backpacks annually and over 46,000 summer meals for kids within the state. Kyle Silverman is the Nutrition Services Manager of the Foodbank, directing their children's and nutrition education programs. Kyle sees these programs as ways to help working families “stretch their dollars,” enabling them to spend their limited money elsewhere.

The science and technology sectors are expanding in Idaho, but low-wage jobs are prevalent. Idaho ranks second in the country for children living in foster care or away from their parents and 42nd in higher education attainment. A recent report from the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest, which uses a standard called ALICE, or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed to get a more accurate picture of financial hardship in the state, defines one in three people in Idaho as working poor. Roughly one in five children under 18 in the state live in poverty.

In Idaho, like other Pacific Northwest states, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, forestry, and tourism are the principal industries. Potatoes, wheat, and malt for beer are the major crops. Barrel cheese, a raw product for processed cheese, is produced here along with other food processing. Coordinating transportation across the entire state is a challenge that the Foodbank addresses by using three branches to facilitate deliveries.

For the Foodbank, serving rural communities is a challenge, but strong partnerships with schools are important to connect with those families that are struggling. The Foodbank relies on school counselors, social workers, and teachers to identify the kids who are most in need of the backpack program since they're “not on the ground.” Kyle explains: “They do a fantastic job. They care so much about their kids and know what's going on at home. They're coming in every day, asking for more food at lunch, or snacks, saying, 'I'm hungry.'” She also sees that involving parents in the process helps with improving communication between the school and families.

The backpacks are packed by enthusiastic volunteers from corporate, church, and other groups. They contain two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, and two snack items and are intended to provide the nutritional requirements for kids when they are out of school over the weekend. The challenge is providing a variety of options that are shelf-stable, cost effective, lower in sodium, nutritionally sound, and that kids will actually eat. Items like pop top cans are necessary in case kids don't have a can opener or someone at home to help them—and they are also more expensive. Funding support from partners, like Hunger Is, helps purchase nutritious food to fill the backpacks.

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To continually learn and improve, the Foodbank conducts a survey at the end of each school year. The kids overwhelmingly love the program and are excited to get their backpacks. Reading their comments provides insight into their lives at home. Children in southwest Idaho, for example, report: “I like it cuz sometimes we run out of food and don't have money to get more” or “It helps with grocery shopping because we don't have much money.” Better nutrition also improves their ability to stay focused at school. A school social worker notes that “teachers report that the children are more alert and active on Mondays” when they have adequate nutrition over the weekend.

For parents, knowing that their children have nutritious food over the weekend relieves some stress. For parents who are working and still can’t make ends meet, time and income are extremely limited. They might have a disability, unstable housing, or jobs that require them to work on weekends. Often they must work two or three low-wage jobs to get by and they still struggle to afford childcare. As one parent in eastern Idaho said: “I love it because I work all week and most of the time I won't have enough time on the weekend to cook good meals.” Or they might not “be present” because of drug or alcohol abuse. “Backpacks are for the kiddo who doesn't have help at home for whatever reason,” Kyle continues. “It's not our place to judge and it's not their fault.”

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Since some kids wound up sharing their food with other family members, it was a “catalyst” for the Foodbank to create a school pantry program. Now, families can obtain food boxes and are better served. In the summer, the Idaho Foodbank operates a mobile, “ice cream truck model” summer meal program to deliver healthy, packed lunches in a refrigerated truck.

Being in a more conservative state, the Foodbank stresses that they are a “private, independent, non-profit” and acknowledges that programs for kids “tugs at people's heartstrings.” Discretion is important because “kids can be cruel.” The Foodbank encourages schools to make student participation in the program confidential. They might be called out of class and place the food backpack into their school backpack and “no one's the wiser.”

Hunger Is, a joint charitable program of the Albertsons Companies Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), builds awareness and raises funds to end childhood hunger. The Idaho Foodbank received a grant to fund efforts in Idaho. This is the second in a WhyHunger series of profiles of grant recipients and their impact.

This article was originally written by Ilene Angel and published by the Huffington Post. To see photos from the event click here and to read the official 2017 WhyHunger Chapin Awards press release click here. Tuesday night, WhyHunger hosted its annual Chapin Awards dinner at the Edison Ballroom in New York City. This year’s honorees included Jon Batiste, musical director and bandleader for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, as well as WhyHunger’s grassroots partner, Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger. Founded in 1975 by the late singer/songwriter Harry Chapin and his friend, radio DJ Bill Ayres, WhyHunger, now in its 42nd year, was created...
New Food Justice Voices issue out now! Our Food Justice Voices series is intended to amplify the voices and experiences of grassroots leaders that aren’t heard enough, while creating awareness and educating readers on various issues connected to hunger and poverty. In Pathology of Displacement: The Intersection of Food Justice and Culture, storyteller, healing practitioner and food justice organizer Shane Bernardo tells his story about how displacement has affected his ancestors and family within the Philippine diaspora, and how he is working to reclaim ancestral subsistence practices that connect him to land, food and his roots. In this piece Shane...
Stories of WhyHunger ally the National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO), and fishing communities in Sri Lanka. This is the 3rd in a 3-part series of articles on NAFSO and the communities whose rights it defends. Read Part 1 and Part 2. Part 3: Why WhyHunger Supports Communities Struggling for Food Sovereignty A few years ago, tens of thousands of Sri Lankan fishermen and their families took to city streets across the four corners of Sri Lanka to protest the Sri Lankan government’s decision to cut a vital fuel subsidy for small-scale fishers, and, more importantly, to remember a fisher leader killed by...
While politicians recklessly propose cuts to destroy many of the basic living standards that help working and middle class families get ahead when times are tough or wages aren’t enough, anxiety rises for the already struggling families questioning their safety across the country. Now that summer is here and school is out, for millions of families, the stress multiplies. Summertime means hunger time for the over 21 million children in the U.S. who rely on free and reduced priced school meals during the rest of the year. Every child needs healthy, daily meals to continue learning and growing over the...

Mr. Tanner Q & A

HALEY KAYE , MAY 31, 2017 tagged as harry chapin children fundraising
Last month, Ripple Grove Press released their latest children’s book, Mr. Tanner, an illustrative adaption of Harry Chapin’s iconic 1973 song, “Mr. Tanner”, with a portion of proceeds benefitting WhyHunger. Harry Chapin was originally inspired to write the song after seeing a mediocre review of a baritone singer in the...

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The White House announced today that the President’s new budget calls for roughly $2.9 trillion in cuts to essential anti-poverty and nutrition programs over the next 10 years that will directly affect the ability of millions of struggling families, low-income workers, children, elderly and disabled Americans to meet their basic...

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When Patrice Chamberlain met with local police chiefs to explain why they should care about summer meals, she steadied herself for a “big sell.” To her surprise, their immediate response was, “How can we help?” It’s one of the many unlikely partnerships that Chamberlain initiated to help more kids get...

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World Fair Trade Day: Why It's Important

CATAYDRA BROWN , MAY 11, 2017 tagged as fair trade agriculture
In honor of World Fair Trade Day, we spoke to Erika Inwald, the National Coordinator of the Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA). DFTA works to build relationships based on principles of fairness amongst farmers and farmworkers in the United States and Canada’s sustainable agriculture movement. Below, we have included information...

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For Mother's Day we want to highlight women who are fighting for food sovereignty to protect their families' human rights and provide their children with the nutritious food they need. Below is an excerpt from WhyHunger's "Through Her Eyes: The Struggle for Food Sovereignty" publication which features dialogue between Yesica Ramirez...

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