SANDPOINT — With 16.9 percent of the population in Bonner County struggling with hunger, many look to their local food banks to fill the gap.
The Bonner County food banks, in turn, depend on Second Harvest in Spokane for much of their food supply.
A national campaign, which began April 17 and will run through May 15, gives community members an opportunity to help out their local food banks by purchasing certain brands of food at Walmart, donating at the register, and even online through a social media campaign.
Any money raised at the Sandpoint Walmart will go to directly to Second Harvest to supply Bonner County food banks. Julie Humphreys, Second Harvest community relations manager, said it is the fourth year of Walmart's "Fight Hunger, Spark Change" campaign, which supplies Feeding America's network of food banks across the country.
"All of the food banks in Bonner County will definitely benefit from the funds raised through Walmart there," Humphreys said. "Walmart is very good at helping out local communities."
The overall goal of the campaign is to help secure 100 million meals for those food banks.
Last year, Humphreys said, the campaign helped secure 600,000 meals for families and individuals in Second Harvest's service area, which includes the five northern counties in Idaho.
Between Clark Fork, Priest River, Bonner Community and West Bonner County food banks, as well as the Priest Lake Food Pantry, Second Harvest delivered 521,167 pounds of food last year. The Bonner Community Food Bank alone received 366,313 pounds of food from Second Harvest in 2016.
This year, between January and April, the Bonner Community Food Bank, located in Sandpoint, has already had 29,000 pounds of food delivered from Second Harvest, said food bank executive director Debbie Love. In each monthly delivery, Love said, the food bank receives dry products, frozen foods and fresh produce.
"As a partner agency, we are able to purchase items in bulk at low cost," Love said. "We are fortunate to have this partnership and appreciate all that Second Harvest does for Bonner County and surrounding region."
The Sandpoint food bank provides services to 900 area families, feeding more than 2,500 individuals each month. More than 1,000 of those are children, Love said.
According to Feeding America, the "spring hunger gap" is where food banks see a low percentage of donations in the first quarter of the year. In the winter and the holiday season, people rally around food donations to ensure people are fed for the holidays, but then it slows, and as summer approaches, Love said it is important to keep the shelves stocked.
Throughout the school year, students from low-income families are provided with breakfast and lunch at school, and also are eligible for the Backpack program where they are given food toward the end of the week to take home.
"When school's out, that puts a lot more pressure on families at home to feed their children," Humphreys said.
So in the summer, the Sandpoint food bank, which runs on a point system, provides more points to families with children so they can have more food at home in those months, Love said.
Humphreys said Second Harvest is "grateful" that half of everything they distribute is fresh produce.
"That's huge," she said. "... Any funds that come in to us through this campaign just allows us to resource and distribute more fresh fruits and vegetables."
Walmart is working with Discover and five national suppliers to tackle the campaign, including Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Kraft Heinz Company and PepsiCo. Details of the three ways for community members to take action against hunger include:
• Purchase: For every participating product purchased at Walmart stores between April 17 and May 15, the supplier will donate the equivalent of one meal, $0.09, on behalf of a Feeding America member food bank, up to applicable limits. For every Discover card transaction made at Walmart stores and Walmart.com during the campaign period, Discover will donate the equivalent of one meal to Feeding America and its network of member food banks, up to $1 million. See Walmart.com/fighthunger for details.
• Online Acts of Support: Generate meals for Feeding America food banks by engaging with the "Fight Hunger, Spark Change" campaign on social media. For each online act of support, Walmart will donate the equivalent of 10 meals, $0.90, to Feeding America on behalf of member food banks, up to $1.5 million.
Facebook – Create original content that uses #FightHunger; like, share and/or react positively to campaign content; click on Walmart provided campaign content.
Instagram – create or share content using the campaign hashtag #FightHunger; like or share Walmart generated campaign content.
Twitter – Create original content that uses #FightHunger; like, share and/or make a campaign tweet a favorite; retweet a message featuring the campaign hashtag #FightHunger; click on Walmart provided campaign content.
• Donate at the Register: Donate to a Feeding America member food bank at the register during checkout.
"The bulk of the donations come from the register, which I thought as interesting," Humphreys said. "What that says is your community is opting for the $1, $2, $5 or other donations, which is really neat, I think."
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.