Boise Picnic in the Park. By Kathryn Pfefferle.
October 18, 2011
Kathryn Pfefferle is a Feeding America national office Programs Coordinator.
This summer, the Programs Team at Feeding America had the opportunity to visit several summer food sites at food banks who received Feeding America grant funding through the ConAgra Foods Foundation’s Hunger-Free Summer grant opportunity. These visits were a wonderful opportunity to observe some of the network’s successful and innovative models designed to overcome some of the barriers to low summer food participation.
During the first week of August, I had the fortune to visit the Idaho Foodbank in Boise, ID. Boise was absolutely beautiful with a vibrant downtown and capital area. On the surface, it’s hard to imagine the high levels of food insecurity in this clean city. Yet, the service area of the Idaho Foodbank has a child food insecurity rate of 23.2% and over 80,000 estimated food insecure children.
In previous years, the Idaho Foodbank operated the traditional model of congregate Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites receiving meal reimbursement from the USDA. However, their participation remained low despite efforts to increase it. Last year, after attending a Feeding America conference, the Idaho Foodbank’s Director of Programs, Jackie, decided the food bank needed to re-tool their model to better serve their local community. The food bank sent a representative to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada to shadow and observe their practices. The Food Bank of Northern Nevada in Reno, NV is a summer food veteran who operates an innovative mobile model and has a service area similar to that of IFB’s. With the support of their Executive Director, the staff at IFB decided to pilot a mobile meal distribution of nutritious, shelf-stable sack lunches.
This model change has increased program efficiencies allowing the food bank to serve more children. Last year, they served nearly 27,000 meals, doubling that number this year with over 61,000 meals! Children turned out by the dozens right on time to meet the food bank’s lunch truck despite the rainy weather. They loved the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and snacks such as string cheese. I sampled the menu and enjoyed it myself! The food bank also serves family meals for $1 and many parents took the time to eat with their children. Many of the sites had a wonderful, family meal atmosphere. The food bank’s staffs’ enthusiasm and drive to constantly improve their programs was contagious and I left feeling encouraged and even more enthusiastic about my work at the National Office.