Food insecurity is on the rise locally and the community is banding together to make sure families don’t go to bed hungry this holiday season.
“Food supplies are down and the need is up 20 to 30 percent,” said Larry Fisher, a spokesman with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pocatello.
On Friday morning, a tractor-trailer load of food donated by the LDS Church arrived at the Idaho Foodbank’s Pocatello warehouse. Fisher said the load contained about 20,000 pounds of food, including butter, cheese and dry goods such as flour and pasta.
“Local food pantries are really excited, especially about the flour. That’s a product they don’t get very often,” Fisher said, explaining the LDS Church has wheat farms and a food production division to help supply its charitable food giving.
Furthermore, the Pocatello Christian Outreach Center, based in the Pine Ridge Mall in Chubbuck, organized a food distribution event in partnership with the Idaho Food Bank for 10 a.m. Saturday in the lot outside of Holt Arena. Pastor Doug Smith that explained his members would help distribute 80,000 pounds of food boxes containing well-balanced meals, purchased with federal assistance money.
“There’s a huge need in the community right now,” said Smith, whose church has helped distribute food, including large donations from anonymous donors, on a monthly basis.
Fisher said the LDS Church also contributed a semi-load of food to the local food bank about five months ago.
Fisher said the Idaho Foodbank has used funding from the federal government’s COVID-19 stimulus plan awarded to the state to help meet some of the increased demand for assistance.
“With the generosity of the people in the Pocatello area and the Pocatello Christian Outreach Center, it seemed like the needs of the community as far as food were being filled pretty good,” Fisher said.
Fisher said local officials with the LDS Church spent about six weeks arranging for the second truckload to be shipped.
“As I’ve talked to the different pantries, the demand is still there more than it used to be,” Fisher said.
Fisher said the Pocatello Christian Outreach Center has been a godsend for local families in need, and it’s been uplifting to Fisher to watch the area food pantries working together to make certain the community’s needs are met.
The annual Whitworth family free Thanksgiving dinner has been canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many local families who have relied on the tradition for their holiday meal have a new option, however, provided by the Pocatello Senior Activity Center.
The center will distribute curbside Thanksgiving dinners from 11:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 25 outside of the facility, located at 427 N. Sixth Ave. Seniors are welcome to reserve a meal by calling 208-233-1212. Staff at the center say they have about 170 regular patrons and need people to order in advance to prepare enough food.
Seniors must have a membership on file at the center or fill out a membership to receive a meal. The center is asking the community to donate frozen turkeys, pies, vegetables and rolls. Donations may be dropped off at the center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday.
The activity center has offered curbside meal pickups since March 24. It started by providing 50 meals on a daily basis on March 24 and now supplies more than 160 meals every Tuesday through Friday. The daily meals are provided by a national federally funded Senior Nutrition grant, administered locally by the Southeast Idaho Council of Governments.