It all started the fall of 2003, when Tom Iselin founded the Blaine County Hunger Coalition in response to the lack of centralized food assistance in our community. Iselin published “Food Cards” directing people in both English and Spanish to community resources. With the help of three volunteers, $10,000 was raised in a door-to-door campaign. By February of 2004, we were able to initiate the Food Voucher Initiative, providing people in need with vouchers to local grocery stores, allowing them to purchase food for themselves and their family. With the help of other social service agencies and volunteers, we began asking the community to pitch in with Food Drives, collecting non-perishable food items. By the end of the year, our first food bank was established in the basement of the Bank of America building in Ketchum. Then things really started to get serious!
The Hunger Coalition Timeline:
June: The arrival of Yellow Food Drive Bins at local schools, churches, and businesses
December: Atkinsons’ Markets begins carrying Stop Hunger Cards and we implement the Infant Formula Initiative
May: South Valley Food Bank established in the Health & Welfare Building
January: “Summit on Hunger and Poverty in Blaine County” hosted by The Hunger Coalition
April: Idaho’s Statewide Taskforce Against Hunger established with participation of The Hunger Coalition
July: First staff person hired, Jeanne Liston, Executive Director
October: First Annual “Skip-a-Meal” event for Hunger Awareness Month
April: Local post offices participate in national Postal Food Drive with The Hunger Coalition as beneficiary
May: First Spring Corporate Food Drive brings in more than 2,000 pounds of food
June: Summer Food Program launched with Blaine County School District and our 1st Mobile Food Pantry distributes more than 20,000 pounds of food to feed approximately 575 people!
September: Backpack Club Program initiated
October: Second staff person hired, Food Program Manager Naomi Spence, and a larger Food Bank with office is established at a warehouse in Hailey. In addition, 2nd Annual Skip-A- Meal event is held and the first Dine Out Blaine County! event takes place
February: Mobile Food Bank launches, distributing food 3 – 4 times weekly in Ketchum, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey with more than 300 people in attendance weekly
March: Food Program Assistant hired to screen clients and provide important case management
April: Awarded ‘Ann & Doug Christensen Humanitarian of the Year’ by Light on the Mountains Spiritual Center
May: Awarded ‘2009 Non-profit of the Year’ by Ketchum/Sun Valley Chamber & Visitor’s Center
October: New Food Bank purchased and remodeled for our permanent home in Bellevue!
March: Awarded stewardship of 10,000 square-foot lot in downtown Hailey to begin
a productive, organic vegetable and fruit garden and build a community park, The Hope Garden! Hired Garden & Education Manager to oversee implementation.
June: First harvest from The Hope Garden – lettuces and radishes for the Mobile Food Bank.
August: Pilot program, Language in the Garden, introduced for clients and community members to work side by side while sharing in a language and culture exchange at The Hope Garden.
September: First Annual Harvest of Hope Celebration
October: Third Annual Dine Out Blaine County! brings together 28 restaurants from across the Wood River Valley in support of Hunger Awareness Month.
November: The Hunger Project explores the experience of hunger and of receiving assistance from The Hunger Coalition.
February: Implementation of the Mentoring & Education Program creates an ongoing series of Educational Workshops, free and open to the public, and a 3-week Mentoring Course for clients.
July: In response to continued growth & program development, the staff becomes a team of eight, working the equivalent of 6 full-time employees as we add a Data Specialist to the team.
August: The Second Annual Harvest of Hope Celebration is a resounding success ~ with a wonderful time to be had by all!
October: 4th Annual Fast for Hunger and Dine Out Blaine County! in recognition of Hunger Awareness Month.
October: Walmart Associates award our largest grant ever, $100,000 providing the opportunity for both a Critical Needs and Endowment Fund.
December: Students from Hailey elementary School host “The Joyful Bowl” while the 7th grade Blue Team at Wood River Middle School presents “Bowls of Hope”, both based on the international grassroots “Empty Bowls” model. The annual Holiday Cocktail Party at Gilman Contemporary Gallery exceeds expectations, raising a personal best help fight hunger in a single night.
January: We embark on an exciting collaborative endeavor with The Advocates and The College of Southern Idaho, Blaine Campus to offer coordinated “life skills” classes. The 2nd annual Empty Bowls is another successful community event thanks to the efforts of Boulder Mountain Clayworks.
February: Marks the beginning of Open Computer Lab, a mentor training session hosted by The College of Southern Idaho.
May: Our Advisory Council expands to include seven knowledgeable, dedicated community members working to support our efforts.
June: To reach more food insecure kids during the summer, a weekly Sack Lunch pilot program is launched in partnership with BCRD, the YMCA and Atkinson’s park summer camp programs. We also continue our important partnership with Blaine County School District for the Summer Meals program, offering free hot breakfast and lunch to young people 18 and under at Woodside Elementary.
July: We celebrate our 10th anniversary with a special event at the Ketchum Town Square featuring live music, a food drive, raffle prizes and a 10-foot-tall sculpture made entirely from cans of food.
October: In recognition of Hunger Awareness Month, we hold free screenings of A Place at the Table in Ketchum and Hailey.
January: In an effort to ensure all children have access to healthy food to help them get through the school day, we implement the pilot Snack Attack program, providing healthy snacks to students at Bellevue Elementary.
March: We increase the times for our Bellevue food distribution from 1-6pm on Mondays and start feeding record numbers of families each week.
June: Expansion of our Summer Food Program includes our new Lunch in the Park in Woodside, reaching more kids than ever before.
June: In partnership with the Wood River Farmers’ Market Association, we started the “Fresh Bucks” program, where food stamp recipients could double their money at local farmers’ markets.
August: Launch of our pilot program Daily Bites, where teachers have access to small portions of food to distribute to children as they deem necessary during class.
April: To better serve working individuals and families, we changed our food distribution hours to 1-6:30 pm on Mondays.
June: We increased the amount of sack lunches distributed at “Lunch in the Park” by more than 500 lunches in 2015.
October: Focusing on our Food Rescue program, we screened the film, Just Eat It, a food waste story, at The Liberty Theater and teamed up with Sun Valley Resort, Ram Chef, Hal Jardine and served only rescued food and drink.
November: A record 757 food boxes were distributed in November 2015.
December: We gave out a record number 3,645 bottles of Infant Formula in 2015, helping babies and mothers in need than ever before.
January: The Hunger Coalition was awarded the Idaho’s Brightest Star Award, recognizing Idaho’s “unsung heroes”.