Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October is Hunger Awareness Month

Task force formed to address hunger issues in Idaho


By DANA DUGAN
Express Staff Writer

Courtesy photo Hunger Coalition Executive Director Jeanne Liston spoke with Gov. Butch Otter in Boise last week.

Well-stocked grocery stores don't necessarily mean that everyone is eating. Even in Idaho, an agricultural state of slightly more than a million residents, hunger is a fact of life in many homes.

Last week, Hunger Coalition Executive Director Jeanne Liston attended a press conference in Boise to meet with Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter. She went as a regional representative on the Statewide Task Force Against Hunger.

"It was powerful to have representatives from all across the state unite in a show of support to end hunger in Idaho," Liston said. "It sent a strong message to the governor that people in Idaho care about this issue and expect our leaders to care as well."

Estimates from the Hunger Coalition state that more than "50,000 children in Idaho go to bed hungry."

In the Blaine County School District, 32 percent of school children qualified for free or reduced lunches in the last school year.

"That's one in three children in this valley who are likely experiencing food insecurity issues at home," Liston said.

After Otter proclaimed October to be Hunger Awareness Month in Idaho, "I thanked him for his support," Liston said.

"Upon hearing where I was from, his eyes lit up and he turned to the person next to him, saying, 'Those people in Blaine County sure know how to take care of their own,'" she recalled. "Otter was referring to the recent Castle Rock Fire and the efforts of the community to reach out to their neighbors in need."

Liston's participation in the Statewide Task Force Against Hunger will also help the group make strides toward long-term solutions to the causes of hunger in Blaine County. Among its goals, the task force will coordinate actions to educate leaders about hunger in Idaho, will encourage actions such as Otter's proclamation and will support the development of projects and ideas to address hunger and its causes.

"Persistent hunger can have irrevocable effects on young people, inhibiting learning potential and affecting long-term health, academic achievement and economic potential," Liston said.

To address that issue, during the month of September, Light on the Mountains Spiritual Center, St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood held food drives that brought in more than 2,000 pounds of food for the hungry.

"It's incredible to walk into the food bank now and see the food going out to hungry people and being replenished immediately," Hunger Coalition Board President Brooke Bonner said.

In addition, there was an outpouring of generosity from the community at large in response to an appeal to help after the Castle Rock Fire in August and September. Service workers laid off during the fire were struggling to pay expenses and were torn between paying for rent or food.

"With requests for food assistance more than doubling from last year, this additional crisis only served to stretch the coalition's resources too thin," Liston said. "While more help is needed, the monetary and food donations from the community have been tremendous. Donations of food can always be made at the bright yellow food barrels located at each of the area's grocery stores.

"In addition, the coalition is constantly seeking businesses, churches and local groups willing to hold a food drive for a couple of weeks to a month."

For more information on The Hunger Coalition, visit www.thehungercoalition.org or call 788-0121.




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