The Essential Role of Food Banks and Pantries in Blaine County, Idaho

The Blaine County Food Council (BCFC) is a network of local food system stakeholders that works to promote communication, coordination, and collaboration through quarterly networking events. Coordinated by Amy Mattias and Stacy Whitman of the Local Food Alliance, the council invites all Blaine County residents to join their efforts in cultivating the community food system. Food insecurity is a major issue in Blaine County, with an estimated 1 in 3 people facing food insecurity or being one crisis away from it. To address this issue, the county has implemented several programs to provide food assistance to those in need.

These include the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the Food Box Program for Low-Income Seniors. The SFSP is a program established by the U. S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that children have access to nutritious meals when there are no classes.

The TEFAP provides cash grants to counties for the purchase and distribution of food to low-income people, while the Food Box Program for Low-Income Seniors works to improve the health of low-income seniors by supplementing their diets with nutritious USDA foods. In addition, there are several food banks and pantries in Blaine County that provide food assistance services through a network of nearly 3,000 local charitable partners, including food pantries, soup kitchens, feeding programs and shelters. These include Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Chester County Community Food Store, Mercer County, Fayette County Community Action Food Bank, Food for Families, Pittsburgh Community Food Bank metropolitan area, Food Helpers, Helping Harvest, Indiana County Community Action Program, Philabundance, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania, Share Food Program, Weinberg Northeast Regional Food Bank, Westmoreland County Food Bank, WIC Agricultural Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP), Food Rescue (serving Chester County), Food Connect Group (serving the Philadelphia metropolitan area), Food Recovery Network Pennsylvania (with chapters at various universities), Fooding Forward (to the Philadelphia metropolitan area), Philly Food Rescue (to the Philadelphia metropolitan area), Rolling Harvest Food Rescue (serving Bucks and Montgomery Counties), and Sharing Excess (to the Philadelphia metropolitan area).The Idaho Foodbank reports a 25 to 50% increase in needs across the state due to COVID-19, with some areas seeing an increase of more than 100%. This has led to an increase in new visitors at food banks and pantries across Blaine County - 66% of members report having a significant number of new visitors who have never asked for food aid before.

The work of food banks and pantries is essential in helping Blaine County residents achieve more nutritious diets by increasing their purchasing power for food in grocery stores and supermarkets. By providing access to nutritious meals and foods for those who need it most, these organizations are helping to reduce hunger and improve health outcomes in Blaine County.