Local food pantry and soup kitchen struggling to stay open and staff are asking for your help

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The following is a news release from the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket.

IDAHO FALLS – Since the COVID-19 health crisis began in March, the Community Food Basket – Idaho Falls has seen its numbers of those seeking emergency food assistance skyrocket. An increase of 75%-100% in the number of people served each month now seems to be the norm versus even just 6 months ago.

The Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen has also had unpredictable numbers of patrons ranging from 100-150 meals served per day, seven days a week.

In March, both agencies asked all 65 of their committed volunteers to stay home and stay safe.

“We knew going into this process those same volunteers may not return to service. This is what has now happened. With so much uncertainty in the world right now and much of Idaho being considered a COVID hot spot, the majority of our valued, regular volunteers have fears and concerns about returning to service,” Executive Director of the Community Food Basket Ariel Jackson says.

It is estimated that from a dedicated pool of 200+ volunteers, 30 have returned to service.

This means volunteers are doing so much more with much less help.

“A huge thank you to our local service missionaries who have helped us to fill in on a temporary basis, but to be honest, we are tiring them out. We are seeing occasional community volunteers, both from businesses and just those wanting to help, however, often the help is a one-time service, not an ongoing one,” says Jackson.

The drive-thru operation at the Community Food Basket requires a minimum of 14 volunteers to run efficiently Monday-Friday. The Soup Kitchen requires a team of five to six daily to serve to-go meals.

This lack of volunteers available to assist during this huge increase in need may force staff to make some hard decisions.

“The Soup Kitchen may need to close on days when no team is available and we are unable to put an emergency team together,” Jackson says. “The lack of enough helpers at the Food Basket will, and has to some extent already, resulted in longer wait times and far too much running and lifting for our current support volunteers to maintain.”

Jackson says volunteering should be rewarding and should feed your soul, and not be something that is dreaded.

“While we would not be able to operate at all without those currently volunteering, we do not want to dim their light by overworking them or putting them at risk,” she says.

If you are able, Jackson is asking for your donations to help purchase food and buy needed equipment. Food to feed those in need or host a food drive or diaper/baby item drive is also needed.

The food basket also welcomes your resources and time to take on a volunteer day every week or month and help relieve some of the pressure on the small staff.

To get involved, call (208) 524-0994 or email [email protected].

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