It’s 4 p.m. on a Wednesday at the Community Food Basket – Idaho Falls. The doors open to a line of people outside the building. The distribution process has started. Volunteers package three bags of food for each individual, place them in a cart and wheel it out the door. The line moves along as people pick up any extra food on the counter and walk out with 59 food items in their cart.
With about 80 volunteers, the food pantry serves 40 to 50 people a day and provides 65 to 85 thousand pounds of food a month, said Bud Langerak, executive director of the Community Food Basket – Idaho Falls. This food pantry has been in business since 1980. Starting out in a closet, they now share a building with a few other organizations at 245 N Placer Ave, where they have been for the last 15 years. The pantry obtained a 6,000-square foot warehouse in February 2016, which is “packed to the walls” with food.
They receive food from four sources: food drives and donations, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Idaho Food Bank and items they have purchased. The Community Food Basket – Idaho Falls receives deliveries from TEFAP twice a month at no cost to the food pantry, and storing more items allows them to spend less money on food purchases, Bud said.
Even though the food is free, the pantry still pays about $1,000 a month on delivery fees. “Cash donations are greatly appreciated,” Bud said. “The power of volume purchasing really helps us with making the donor’s dollar stretch further.” This purchasing power allows the pantry to buy food through a food bank at a lower price than what they would spend at a grocery store, Bud said. The products vary depending on donations, but Bud stresses the importance of receiving their staple items, one of which is chili. The pantry goes through about 1,000 cans of chili a month. They chose items that complement several other pantry items to make different meals. For this reason, the pantry is in need of their staple items in order to make the food supply stretch further for families.
The food basket is also in need of fresh produce, Bud said, especially during the holiday season. Because of this, the pantry is developing a garden, which will be called the Community Food Basket Farm. This farm will allow the pantry to gather and distribute fresh produce in larger quantities. If someone wants to donate produce, they should bring it in the day it is purchased so it can be disbursed right away.
Another way people can help is by donating in upcoming food drives. In celebration of providing 30 years of care in their current facility, Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center is holding an online food drive. Until December 31, people can visit eirmc30years.com, enter their email address and the hospital will donate five cans per person up to 30 thousand cans. People can also participate in the drive by dropping off canned food at EIRMC.
These donations will be distributed between 11 different entities, including the Community Food Basket – Idaho Falls. “We are excited about the support we are getting from the community as we’re going into the holidays,” Bud said.
As of August 2016, the pantry has served 26,261 individuals this year and continues to spread the joy to thousands more. “Anyone who comes to us with a need will be taken care of,” he said. “Caring and sharing — that’s what we’re about.”