Providing for our neighbors

The holidays are well underway and so are the efforts to provide for our neighbors in need in eastern Idaho.

In December 2015, The Idaho Foodbank’s Pocatello branch will distribute food for 367,000 meals through our 44 community partners in the region. To meet the need will require the full support of local soup kitchens, pantries, shelters and senior centers. Thankfully, the commitment and dedication of these valued community partners is equal to the task at hand.

In Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” study released earlier in 2015, it’s estimated there are 55,190 residents in eastern Idaho, including more than 21,000 children, who don’t know when or if they will get a next meal. Sadly, we know these numbers are increasing even as they show a modest decline in other areas of the state.

But we are making a difference. While the challenge is greater than any one organization or community can overcome, it is something we can solve by working together.

The Idaho Foodbank has served eastern Idaho through a Pocatello facility for 17 of its 31 years of operation. Over the years we have had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful community partners and supporters. On a personal note, in my tenure as Pocatello Branch manager, the friendships I have formed and the support I have witnessed firsthand have left an indelible mark on my life. For that I will always be grateful.

The inability to provide food for oneself or one’s family is always painful but especially so during the holidays — a time of sharing and thanksgiving with family and friends. Fortunately, whether you live in a small rural community with a population of just more than 100 like Leadore, or a larger college town such as Rexburg, there are local resources available to lend assistance. We all should be thankful for that fact.

But these organizations can’t shoulder the responsibility without the generous support of individuals who share their concern and commitment to working families, children and seniors in need.

Last year, the Pocatello facility distributed food for more than 3 million nourishing meals through our partner network as well as a growing list of our own direct-service programs including Backpack, School Pantry, Senior Food Box (CSFP) and the mobile pantries. Next year, we are embarking on a capital campaign to upgrade our facility so we have the capacity to store and distribute far more fresh and frozen foods. As evidenced by our investment in programs and the planned facility upgrade, our commitment to the people and communities of eastern Idaho has never been stronger.

All of our hunger-relief efforts depend on community support for their success. Local voices, hearts and hands engaged and willing to provide a hand up to those among us who are down on their luck. The Idaho Foodbank is proud to work alongside the 44 community partners that comprise our distribution network. And we look forward to building new relationships with donors and community partners in eastern Idaho in the new year.

It is the holiday season. Traditionally, a time to give thanks for what we have and to look forward to what we hope to achieve. Thank you community partners and supporters for all that you do. I have no doubt that with your continuing generosity and commitment, we can solve hunger in eastern Idaho.

Happy holidays to one and all.

Rebecca Ristrem is the Eastern Idaho Branch Manager for the The Idaho Foodbank. The Idaho Foodbank is an independent, donor-supported, nonprofit organization founded in 1984, and is the largest distributor of free food assistance in Idaho. For information about programs and services visit: