Posts tagged: hunger
Art with a message went up in downtown Boise today, as a new anti-hunger mural was unveiled on the south wall of the infamous big hole in the center of downtown. The mural proclaims “HUNGER AFFECTS EVERYONE,” and features striking 3-D images of an empty fridge and an empty cupboard, with a shopping list on one cupboard door listing such basics as bread, milk, eggs and soup. As contributions are made to feed the hungry, the empty cupboard and refrigerator will fill with food; the mural is scheduled to be up until January. It’s a collaboration between the city of Boise’s Art and History Department, Boise Young Professionals, Wirestone, which donated the design work, and the Idaho Foodbank. Also contributing to the project were Hewett-Packard, Home Depot, Thriftway Home Center, Food Services America, and Signs 2 U.
As the work was unveiled this morning, a knot of volunteers and passers-by gathered across Main Street to watch; the 3-D images, which don’t look like much up close, stand out in the view from across the street and for motorists driving by. The mural also features information about food drives and other anti-hunger events.
“During uncertain times, more and more Idahoans are seeking emergency food assistance, many for the first time,” the Idaho Foodbank said in an announcement about the project. More than 40 percent of those seeking its assistance have a family member who’s working; more than 70 percent of households seeking help did so because their income has temporarily dropped below $10,000 per year.
The wall that serves as a barrier around the hole in the center of downtown Boise has played host to an array of murals over the years; behind it, an unfinished foundation and jutting rebar testify to a giant office tower that never was built, one of a series of failed redevelopment proposals on the site that once was the home of the historic Eastman Building. That structure, vacant and on the verge of a historic renovation, burned to the ground in a spectacular midwinter nighttime fire two decades ago; it’s the last remaining piece of Boise’s original downtown redevelopment zone that’s never been successfully filled back in.
This may not look like a picture of a food bank event, but that’s exactly what it is. Today, Idaho’s beef industry joined with the Idaho Foodbank to launch “Beef Counts,” a program designed to “provide a consistent supply of much-needed, high-quality beef protein throughout the year to The Idaho Foodbank and those we serve,” according to the food bank, which distributes free emergency food from warehouses in Boise, Lewiston and Pocatello through a network of 220 agencies statewide, from rescue missions to soup kitchens.
David Proctor, spokesman for the Idaho Foodbank, said, “This is the first time in the country this partnership with the beef industry has been established. … Other states are very interested.” Beef industry groups involved include the Agri Beef Co., the Idaho Beef Council, and the Idaho CattleWomen Council. The move comes as the economic downturn leaves more and more Idahoans hungry. “Today, the face of hunger is our neighbor, our friends and sometimes even members of our family,” the food bank said in announcing the new program.
October is Hunger Awareness Month, and the state marked the occasion this morning when Lt. Gov. Brad Little joined a wide array of religious leaders, anti-hunger activists and children from the Boise Urban Garden School to make it official. The children presented a basket of locally grown produce from farmer’s markets and community gardens around the state, and Little said he’s seen first-hand in his hometown of Emmett the success of interfaith efforts to get fresh, local produce to the needy. Idaho is ranked as the 24th hungriest state, Little noted, and it has the 10th highest percentage of food-insecure children under age 5. “It is important at this point in time, particularly in Idaho where we have so much agricultural products, that there are people who are hungry,” Little said, calling on Idahoans to “be aware of the necessity to take care of our own.”
The event came as a recent survey by the Northwest Area Foundation found that in the past year, 55 percent of Idahoans said they’ve cut down on the amount they’ve spent on food; 32 percent had problems paying for basic necessities like their mortgage, rent or heat; 33 percent had trouble affording medical care; 26 percent said someone in their household has lost a job; and 38 percent said someone in their household has had their work hours cut. “This poll confirms what we are seeing in Idaho,” said Mary Chant, executive director of the Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho. “We’re seeing a whole new group of people who’ve never experienced financial difficulties of this magnitude. It’s the former high-earning, two-income families who’ve lost a job and have a heavy debt load. It’s putting a huge stress on our services, because we’re still working with all the low-income families we’ve typically helped in the past.”
A new nationwide study of child hunger shows Idaho making two contradictory top-10 lists - one for the most improvement in rates of child hunger, and the other for being among the 10 worst for hungry kids under age 5. “We actually have improved from where we were - we were so bad,” said Kathy Gardner, director of the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force. State Health and Welfare officials are “a little puzzled” by the conflicting results, said spokesman Tom Shanahan. “We don’t have a good answer for it. … We may have been a little behind the curve, and we’re headed in the right direction now.”
The study, “Feeding America: Child Food Insecurity in the United States,” looked at hunger rates for children by state. It compared data from 2005 through 2007 to earlier data, from 2003 to 2005. It also, for the first time, broke out data for children under age 5. Gardner said the improvements Idaho showed in the study fit in with several bright spots for the fight against hunger in the Gem State. Idaho’s food stamp program, which she called “the front-line program for childhood hunger and family hunger,” is rapidly expanding, and on Monday, dropped its asset test for one year - potentially making an entire new population of laid-off Idahoans eligible for help. “Everyone once in a while we do something that’s very progressive,” she said. You can read my full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.