The Idaho Foodbank is helping address Latah County’s high food insecurity rate by starting a once-a-month mobile food pantry in Genesee.
Latah County has the second-highest food insecurity rate in the state, according to 2017 data from Feeding America.
The Genesee mobile pantry is available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church parking lot, 138 Jackson St.
An Idaho Foodbank refrigerated truck transports the food from Lewiston to the church and local volunteers distribute the dry, fresh and frozen food at the parking lot to those in need.
“We’re just the conduit that can provide the food because the real heroes and the real people getting the job done are the local volunteers and people in the community that want to help their neighbors in need,” said Mike Wigen, Idaho Foodbank north central Idaho branch manager in Lewiston.
Wigen said the truck provides enough food for about 50 families.
He said those who get food from the pantry are asked their name, where they are from and other related questions.
The existing Genesee Food Bank is open from 10 a.m. to noon the second and fourth Friday of every month at St. John’s Lutheran Church, 648 W. Ash Ave.
Wigen said the mobile pantry is designed to get food to remote areas where food is not as accessible. He said the Idaho Foodbank has been making a concerted effort to increase the amount of food it provides to Latah County.
The Idaho Foodbank provides mobile pantry services to 56 Idaho communities, including Bovill, Juliaetta, Potlatch, and recently at the University of Idaho in Moscow.
“We’re here to just reduce the food insecurity for all Idahoans,” Wigen said.
Wigen said Genesee residents contacted the Idaho Foodbank describing the need in the small southern Latah County town.
The need for food may have increased with the closing of the Genesee Food Center, the town’s only grocery store, at the end of January. But Wigen said the Genesee mobile pantry was not in response to the store’s closure.
Kathy Zenner, a Genesee mobile pantry volunteer, said she believes the mobile pantry helps some of those residents who relied on the Genesee Food Center.
Wigen said the Idaho Foodbank conducted a “pop-up” mobile pantry on the first day of school in Genesee last year to see how many people would show up. He said about 35 people did.
Zenner called the pop-up pantry a success and the pantry started coming to Genesee this winter.
Wigen said the mobile pantry will continue in Genesee once a month as long as the need exists and Genesee-area residents are willing to volunteer to distribute the food.
Those two items do not appear to be issues, according to Zenner.
“It’s amazing how many people are willing to volunteer and help but there definitely was a need in Genesee for (the mobile pantry),” she said.
The Idaho Foodbank used to provide food to the Genesee Food Bank and Wigen said it would love to partner with the local food bank again.
Lucinda Langstaff, a Genesee Food Bank volunteer, said the food at the Genesee Food Bank is donated mostly by local residents and groups and it is interested in partnering with the Idaho Foodbank. But, the Genesee Food Bank is restricted in the space it has for food.
Langstaff said the amount of people who utilize the Genesee Food Bank varies and she is glad to see the mobile pantry come to town.
“I think it will continue to be a really positive and good thing,” she said.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.