Community June 9, 2010

Hunger Where it Doesn't Belong

Volunteers are the soul of Blaine County’s Hunger Coalition

Jeanne Liston wishes she were out of a job.

As executive director of The Hunger Coalition, that would mean she accomplished her organization’s mission: to end hunger in Blaine County.

Until that day, however, The Hunger Coalition is trying to keep pace with needs that grow daily. “We went from a little office in my home in 2007 to a warehouse space in Hailey in 2009, and within months we were punching out holes in the walls for additional space,” Liston said. The organization has since grown again, and is now in a larger facility on Honeysuckle Street in south Bellevue.

“You know you are making a difference on a daily basis when you come here,” Liston said. “Who wants to think that there might be kids going hungry in this wealthy valley?”

The coalition’s Mobile Food Bank Program, launched in February 2009, distributes food to 180 to 350 families each month in every one of Blaine County’s communities. Its Backpack Club program helps more than 100 area students stay nourished each weekend by distributing discreetly anonymous backpacks filled with kid-friendly food at schools throughout the Valley.

“Who wants to think that there might be kids going hungry in this wealthy valley?”
-Jeanne Liston, Hunger Coalition Executive Director

With mounting successes come new opportunities, and the coalition is working to serve as a larger resource for impoverished families, offering tools to help its clients move away from the cycles of hunger and poverty. Projects include The Hope Garden, a vegetable plot to be planted and harvested by clients (see pg. 116), and education classes on topics ranging from cooking to resume-writing.

Though The Hunger Coalition was honored to be chosen as Sun Valley Magazine’s Local Hero, its six employees were quick to deflect the honor. As they see it, the coalition’s dedicated volunteers are the deserving heroes. Between sorting, loading and distributing more than 1,000 food boxes every month, The Hunger Coalition requires 100 active volunteers each week.

“When people start to get involved, they see that we are not just the typical food bank/revolving door, moving people in and out,” Liston said. “We are really trying to empower people to move out of this situation.”

But despite The Hunger Coalition’s far-reaching efforts, Liston still has a job to do. In the meantime, we can all hope that her wish to be unemployed one day comes true.



This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.