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Local food banks dealing with increase in demand, decrease in supply

Donations received by the Community Food Basket—Idaho Falls. | Courtesy Ariel Jackson
POCATELLO — Like so many other food assistance organizations, the Community Food Basket—Idaho Falls and Pocatello Idaho Foodbank find themselves serving an increased number of people in need while also seeing a decline in food donations.
Food Basket director Ariel Jackson told that they have found themselves buying much more food to supplant donations than they ever have in the past.
“We’re actually serving about 7,000 people a month, and I don’t know how much longer we can continue to do that because we don’t have food coming in,” Jackson said.
Food Basket, Jackson added, did its annual food drive in October, which the organization has done since 2020. Like previous years, they set a goal of collecting 100,000 pounds of food donations. But for the first time, they did not reach that goal, collecting just 75,000 pounds.
Kia Shaw, eastern branch manager at The Idaho Foodbank, said her organization has also seen a significant decrease in donations, specifically in the large-scale “full-truck” donations.
Both Shaw and Jackson believe inflation is the key cause for the diminished donations.
Jackson’s understanding of the situation is that with a rise in rent and utility costs, families have been forced to cut back on food budgets.
“It’s hard to buy extra when you can’t afford to buy what your family needs,” she said.
For that reason, these organizations have seen an uptick in the number of people in need of the food they offer. Jackson said the Community Food Basket—Idaho Falls served 1,600 families in November — up from the 1,200 or so families it normally helps.
One way to stretch their resources, both Jackson and Shaw said, is if those donations are made in the form of money rather than food.
“The food helps right now, but the funds go farther,” Shaw said. “For every $5 that’s donated, we can provide enough food for up to 15 meals.”
As Jackson said, because these organizations buy food by the pallet from food suppliers with whom they’ve partnered, they receive major discounts. Also, as nonprofits, they do not pay taxes on the food items they buy.
Food Basket is able to buy $4.80 worth of food with every $1 donated, she added.
“You can donate a can of corn, or you can give me a dollar, and I can buy five.”
For people who wish to donate food, Jackson said the Food Basket’s top four needs right now are dry pasta, tomato and spaghetti sauce and canned chili.
While the needs are elevated right now, for many reasons, Shaw added that there will always be families who meet certain crises and find themselves in need of the help The Idaho Foodbank and Community Food Basket provide.
“Food insecurity is a year-round issue — it is something that our neighbors have to face frequently,” she said. “Our need does go up in the winter time, due to higher bills with heating and gas and everything else. But just because the sun comes out in March or April, that doesn’t mean that insecurity goes away.”

For more information
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. Some smaller food banks are affiliated with the larger organizations listed here. See for more.

The Idaho Foodbank (many locations and partners throughout eastern Idaho — see the map here)
Community Food Basket—Idaho Falls
Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership (Rexburg, Salmon and Challis)
Upper Valley Bible Church (St. Anthony)
Teton Valley (Idaho) Food Pantry

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