Friday, September 4, 2009

Hunger Coalition provides locally grown food

Grow A Row program benefits many in Wood River Valley

Express Staff Writer

Hunger Coalition volunteers Zany Davey, left, Pamela Davey, center, and Daryl Carlin sort fresh produce to load into a mobile food bank for distribution. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Hunger Coalition has had to fill a large role in the community this past year with many valley residents suffering from declining incomes and job losses. Founded in 2003, the Hunger Coalition has provided food for hungry children and families through programs such as the mobile food bank and infant formula initiatives.

A year ago the Hunger Coalition began a summer food program with the school district and started the Backpack Club. Both programs were initiated to feed hungry kids. In February, the Hunger Coalition instituted the mobile food bank, which provided food to distribution points in Carey, Bellevue, Hailey and Ketchum.

"Going to one of the mobile food bank distribution sites is like going to a miniature farmers' market with the variety and quality of fresh food available," said Food Program Manager Naomi Spence. "It is a tremendous gift to offer these families food, which allows them to maintain their healthy eating habits, even though they are struggling financially."

In March, the Hunger Coalition began accepting donations of perishable goods from valley grocers, thereby giving clients healthier options. Due to the volunteers and businesses that provided materials and labor for a much-needed walk-in cooler in July, the organization has been able to store the abundance of fresh food it receives.

Contributors and donations to the walk-in cooler include Nick Gilman and Matt Spence of Lee Gilman Builders, Lara Rozzell, Tom Blanchard, Anderson Insulation, Idaho Lumber, Thornton Heating, Buffalo Electric and Tom Liston of Restorations Inc.

The walk-in cooler serves as valuable storage for the Hunger Coalition's newest summer program, Grow a Row, which encourages local gardeners and farmers to grow an extra row in their garden to be donated to the organization's efforts.

"The cooler was tailored specifically for our needs and it is amazing," Spence said. "It is an 8-by-10 cooler and it's large. It works on a converted air conditioning unit."

Spence said that if the Hunger Coalition needs to move the unit, it can be broken down and easily transported.

More than 55 gardeners have signed up to contribute to the Grow a Row program. To date, 554 pounds of produce has been donated through the Grow a Row program and nearly 52,000 pounds of perishables have come from local grocers.

"In addition to the growers who signed up, tons of people just show up with their garden produce," Spence said. "This last week has been crazy because gardens are exploding."

The Blaine County Recreation District's summer camp planted a garden, and the campers are now in the process of harvesting and donating their bounty to The Hunger Coalition.

Spence said planting and gardening connects children to food and the earth, and now gives them an opportunity to help other children, sometimes friends, in their community.

To get involved with the Grow a Row program, contact nspence@ For more details on the Hunger Coalition, visit its Web site at or call 788-0121.

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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