Mark Peters

Mark Peters

The contractor that runs Idaho National Laboratory is launching a new effort to help people in the community, starting with a $60,000 donation to two local food banks.

As its first act, Battelle Energy Alliance's INL Cares initiative will give $40,000 to the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket and $20,000 to the Idaho Foodbank in Pocatello. This will pay for about 100,000 meals, said INL Director Mark Peters. The money will help provide grab-and-go meals for students, meal boxes for families and ingredients for the Meals on Wheels program.

“We know many of our friends and neighbors are struggling, but we also see incredible organizations and individuals working every day to provide food and shelter to those in need and to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Peters said. “We are honored to support these organizations and individuals in our community and find inspiration in their example.”

Battelle launched INL Cares as a response to the needs in the community caused by coronavirus.

"We wanted to do as much as we could," Peters said.

Peters said local food banks have seen a huge increase in demand due to the unemployment and economic disruption that have accompanied coronavirus, which is why the lab decided to try to help with that first.

Peters said INL plans to announce more efforts as part of INL Cares in the coming weeks. One initiative, he said, will be to give grants to small businesses.

"It's readily apparent how much they're suffering, not just here but everywhere," Peters said.

Peters said INL also plans to work with Crush the Curve, a statewide effort by a group of business leaders who are working together to provide tests and other resources to combat the coronavirus, on expanding coronavirus testing.

"Testing's important for the whole region, but it's also important for us given our workforce," Peters said.

He said INL is still in talks with Crush the Curve on how best to help. Peters said access to testing is going to be crucial, as businesses reopen and people start to gather again with coronavirus still among us.

"We're looking at both influence and dollars," he said.

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Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.