Today is National Food Day. No, it's not a celebration of our nation's overabundance of food. Rather, it's a day to examine the overwhelming need of men, women and children who don't have appropriate access to nutrition.
Later this afternoon, lawmakers, anti-hunger activists and local food system farmers will gather at the Statehouse to bring greater attention to food insecurity.
In March, the Idaho Foodbank unveiled a startling report indicating that nearly 16 percent of Idahoans were food insecure, and nearly one in five persons don't know where their next meal will come from in five counties: Adams, Benewah, Boundary, Shoshone and Valley. The study said that the average cost of a nutritious meal in Idaho was $2.68 (higher than the national average of $2.54). The cost per meal was highest in Valley county, at $4.18.
A group of Idaho lawyers managed to raise $8,460 for the Idaho Foodbank by eating less. The group went on a “food stamp” budget for one week. To celebrate, the participating Boise lawyers gathered on Oct. 7, the end of their spartan food week, for booze and pizza at Old Chicago. They quickly laid into the cheesy pies.
“I was going to bed hungry,” said attorney Chris Christensen.
BW asked what Christensen’s most decadent snack was before the challenge.
“I would have a bowl of ice cream as a bedtime snack,” Christensen said. “There was no bedtime snack here.”
The lawyers cut their grocery bills to $30 for the week—a daily food expense of $4.30, the budget for one in four Americans. Using their website, idahoyounglawyers.org, the group of 20 asked for pledges from law firms and individuals around the state. They netted more money than their $8,000 goal and expect more in the coming days.
“What's hard is putting together a plan—and how difficult it would have been if I hadn't planned. Most of us have the luxury of not having to think about what we eat,” said attorney Richie Eppink. “I actually lost three pounds."
The money will be used to feed Idaho families, and, according to Shauna Stonehocker with the Idaho Foodbank, it is a huge boon to their organization. These days, she said, the supplies consistently run dry.
“One in four Idahoans doesn't known where their next meal is going to come from,” Stonehocker said. She’d like to see her organization participate next year.
With the money the attorneys raised for the foodbank, a person could live on $30 per week for 282 weeks, or over five years.
A group of Treasure Valley lawyers, through a unique one-week exercise, hope to bring some stomach-growling awareness to hunger in Idaho.
For one week, a group of attorneys will have to sustain themselves on a budget of no more than $30 each. The Attorneys Against Hunger Challenge is a fundraiser for the Idaho Foodbank.
"I'm interested in how the challenge will provoke discussion, raise awareness and get people thinking about these issues," said Ritchie Eppink, a local attorney.
With a daily allowance of $4.30, each attorney will face the same struggle as one in four Americans.
"I anticipate eating lots of rice, beans and ramen noodles, and I'm hoping to have enough left over for fruits and vegetables," said Eppink.
Approximately 20 lawyers are participating. They will be posting updates about their experiences at idahoyounglawyers.org.
Too many children still go to bed hungry in Idaho. That's the conclusion of the latest study tracking food insecurity in the United States.
According to Map the Meal Gap 2009, 23.4 percent of children in Idaho are food insecure. Simply put, 95,150 or nearly one in four children are at risk of hunger. The number represents a 43 percent increase from the last study of Idaho childhood food insecurity. In Ada County, it is 20.9 percent or 20,150 kids. In Canyon County, it is 28.3 percent or 15,760 kids. Valley County had the highest rate of food insecurity for children: 33.4 percent.
A study released in March found that 15.8 percent or 206,000 Idahoans of all ages were food insecure.
A house is food insecure if there isn't access, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
More than $500,000 was earmarked today for Idaho to improve enrollment in school meals programs. Idaho agencies that administer the National School Lunch Program were awarded grants totaling $513,190 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funds are geared to reduce paperwork and expedite certification of students for free meals in the school breakfast and lunch programs.
"Fewer eligible families will have to fill out duplicative paperwork for healthy school meals," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Direct Certification Grants totaling nearly $3 million have been made to 15 states since January, including Idaho's announcement today.
Proposals to cut funding for a national food program may leave Idaho’s most vulnerable citizens with growling stomachs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is on the Congressional chopping block, aiming to cut costs by changing the grant structure to one with so-called "preset" funding limits.
In April, the U.S. House voted to cut SNAP’s funding by $127 billion, nearly 20 percent. SNAP aims to put healthy food on the table for over 40 million people each month. Those tables in need are usually kids tables. According to the Food Research and Action Center, nearly 80 percent of those using SNAP in Idaho are homes with children.
The largest section of recipients of these funds is families living with dangerously low incomes. as well as the elderly and those living with disabilities. Ellen Vollinger of the Food Research and Action Center told Citydesk that cuts to SNAP’s funding would “seriously undermine the program for all people.”
Vollinger also points to the retailers who have partnered with SNAP to provide food. These retailers, she said, are beneficial in helping when need is increased. Natural disasters and economic downturns leave many without food on their plates. In recent years, SNAP has been there to help. A change in the program to the block-grant structure would mean that those difficult times may not receive any extra funding.
Kathy Gardner, director of the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force, said a change like this would be “a disaster.” Gardner also said more than 220,000 Idahoans would be affected by this decision to move funding to the block-grant structure, and that families could see their personal support cut by more than $100 a month.
A petition signed by 15 organizations across the state, as well as 2,500 groups nationwide, has been delivered to all members of Congress. Signed primarily by religious, senior and children's groups, the letter urges members to oppose proposals that cut funding to SNAP. The letter and a list of organizations that signed it can be found at frac.org