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Foodbank: Hunger on the rise in eastern Idaho

Published On: Mar 19 2013 08:16:13 PM CDT
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

New statistics from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare show a staggering number of Idahoans are on food stamps. The number represents 17-percent of people statewide.

In January 2013, the Department of Health and Welfare reported nearly a quarter of our eastern Idaho neighbors rely on food stamps just to make it through.

Those who feed the needy say that is a dramatic increase.

"Considering that at one point in time I was part of that 17 percent, I probably know at least 17 percent of my friends and coworkers who are on food stamps," said Alex Bristol, who lives in Idaho Falls.

Bristol's food stamp story is one of beating the odds.

"I was 18, I moved out of my house, not thinking of all the expenses there are when you move out on your own," she said.

Bristol needed the program to survive -- just like tens of thousands of other Idahoans.

In Bonneville County, nearly 18,000 people use food stamps, but that's just the tip of the hunger iceberg in the state.

At the Idaho Falls Food Bank on Tuesday afternoon, dozens of people waited in line to feed their families.

"The recession started in 2008, and that's when our numbers really started going up," said Food Bank chairman Buck Horton.

Horton said since the economic downturn, more and more folks are fighting hunger.

"When I came onboard in 1998, we were feeding less than 10,000 people a year," he said.

But in 2012, Horton said the Food Bank served more than 32,000 people.

"I get more and more people who call me and say, 'I just lost my job. What do I do? How do I get some food?'" said Horton.
 
That was the same reality Bristol faced for years - until one day.

A new job got her back on her feet and she didn't need the program anymore.

"It was probably one of the best things I could have done," said Bristol.
 
Leaving the program behind taught Bristol to appreciate it.

"Now that I have a good paying job in something I love to do, the taxes I pay to the state that help other people buy groceries, it just gives me a sense of pride and hope that people can realize the same thing I did," she said.

Bristol said she hopes some of the misconceptions about folks on food stamps can be erased -- that many people in the program are working to get out of it.

If you find it difficult to afford food for your household, you can apply for assistance through the Department of Health and Welfare:

http://www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/FoodCashAssistance/FoodStamps/tabid/90/Default.aspx

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