The economy may be improving according to national news sources and publications, but in Blaine County people are still going hungry. Raising community awareness about hunger in the U.S., the Postal Food Drive for the Hungry is a national food drive campaign to generate donations for distributing food to the hungry, including those in Blaine County.
The third annual Postal Food Drive, coordinated through the Hunger Coalition in the Wood River Valley, will take place Saturday, May 1, through Saturday, May 8. The weeklong drive is part of the National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive, which will take place on May 8.
Anyone in the Wood River Valley wishing to donate food items can place them in the bright yellow barrels in the lobbies of the Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley post offices. The Hunger Coalition requests that all items donated in the yellow bins should be nonperishable and properly packaged.
"We are still seeing a lot of struggle," said Jeanne Liston, Hunger Coalition executive director. "Our hardest time is this time of year because people forget. This happens every year, and we get to this point and start to panic."
Liston said the number people needing food assistance in Ketchum has dropped, but in Hailey and Bellevue it has picked up. In addition, Liston said the Hunger Coalition is seeing new faces.
"We can't expect people to go full force all the time," Liston said. "This community always responds when there is a need, which is why it's an amazing place to live."
The Postal Food Drive is also being assisted by 10 fourth-grade girls who are members of Girl Scout Troup No. 78, led by Julie Lynn, and seven high school girls of Girl Scout Troop No. 378, led by Peggy Lupton.
"Girl Scouts is all about helping others, and I think the food drive is a meaningful way to lend a hand and really make a difference," troop leader Julie Lynn said.
Liston said this is a great opportunity for kids to have hands-on experience.
The Hunger Coalition reports that it distributed more than 194,000 pounds of food during 2009 to people facing hunger issues and food insecurity in Blaine County. In addition, the Hunger Coalition's Backpack Club, which provides food for children to take home for the weekend, had its largest amount of recipients this spring, filling 140 backpacks.
"Our budget was hit harder the first part of this year," Liston said. "We hope it evens out."
Liston said food donations are always appreciated, but the coalition can make a dollar go a long way. It has received 30,000 pounds of food from the Idaho Foodbank at 4 cents a pound and will buy food as needed at Albertsons at a discount.
"It makes sense to leverage cash so we can buy more and buy what is needed," Liston said. "We can stretch $10 into $100. People are really desperate and with the issue of hunger. If you have not been through it, you can't understand it."
Liston said there are many positive things happening for the Hunger Coalition, including lots of enthusiasm for the Hailey Garden Project and the interest of many farmers to participate in the Grow A Row summer program.
"The donations from the Grow A Row summer food program are my favorite because people are so excited to give us what they have grown, and it means so much to them," Liston said. "Some people even include recipes with their donations."
The Hunger Coalition also has an upcoming valleywide business food drive.
Sabina Dana Plasse: firstname.lastname@example.org