It’s payday—but don’t celebrate too quickly … after rent and a few bills for the month are paid, you only have a few dollars left for food. This is unfortunately a very familiar situation for many residents of the Wood River Valley. It’s time to hear their stories and meet these people.
The Hunger Coalition’s recent photo journal exhibition, titled “Food For Thought,” gives locals a glimpse into the world of community members who have been affected by a financial or personal crisis, ultimately leading them to seek help from The Hunger Coalition. The project will be on exhibit at the Gilman Contemporary Gallery in Ketchum from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23. The exhibit is in recognition of Hunger Awareness Month. People can see the photos, read some of the journal entries and meet some of the participants.
In the project, participants were outfitted with a camera and a list of journal questions—and the outcome was powerful. The stories of hope, bravery, survival and strength have been documented in a softbound book that serves as a gift of inspiration for many.
The photo journal project has been in the works since March of this year and captures the stories of more than a dozen locals. The Hunger Coalition’s communications and development manager, Julie Molema, explained: “In this beautiful resort valley where we are surrounded by wealth, it’s important to not forget about people who are struggling—they may be people you pass by on the street, your neighbors, or people who work in the restaurants and retail shops you frequent. They are community members that have fallen on hard times and are seeking some assistance.”
The book, “Food For Thought,” contains direct quotes, photos, journal entries and summarized narration from staff interviews. Some staff encountered resistance when approaching potential participants, especially from men.
“Men often wait way too long to ask for help. They allow themselves to suffer and compromise their health, both mental and physical, before they walk through our doors,” said Naomi Spence, associate director for the Coalition.
“I think of myself and how I would handle this situation,” Spence said. “I think I would be relieved to share my story to avoid being judged or labeled. I would want people to know I am doing my very best, which is simply not enough at times. This is a hard reality. Especially for men.”
A young mother named Heidi, who has two sons, wanted to do anything she could to support the Coalition and shed some light on those in need. She also wanted to inspire people who might be avoiding help due to fear or stigma. Her story spans 12 pages in the book and includes a touching image of her son reaching up.
“When I took this picture, it was to represent the help we get from the Hunger Coalition. A hand up, not a hand out. We struggle like so many people today. I do the best I can and I work hard for everything we have,” Heidi said.
Molema hopes the exhibit will give perspective.
“People often wonder who our clients are ... what leads them to take that incredibly hard first step through our doors,” she said. “These people are hard-working, many with families, that just don’t have enough money to cover rent, utilities, bills, mounting medical expenses and food.”
For more information, call The Hunger Coalition at 788-0121.