Cornerstone Assembly increases distribution

Cornerstone Assembly Pastor Mark Burgess typically spends the third Wednesday of every month distributing food to hundreds of families in Weiser.
 Cars began filling the Cornerstone Assembly church’s parking area well before 8 a.m., ahead of the 9:30 a.m. distribution start time. By then, the lot was filled to capacity, with cars lining up on East Main Street.
 “We do this monthly, through The Idaho Food Bank,” Burgess said, as dozens of volunteers directed vehicles north, up E. Fifth Street. The street is blocked on distribution days, pallets of food boxes delivered via tractor-trailer and lined up in a long row along the curb on the east side of the street, in front of the church.
 Cars then roll by the pallets as volunteers load their vehicles with a determined quantity of nutritional food based on family size.
 Food insecurity spiked during COVID, The Idaho Food Bank reporting an increase in distribution across the state.
 Now, with food prices soaring and inflation hitting a 40-year high at 9.1 percent, it appears another increase in demand is on the horizon.
 “We have noticed that prices have gone up,” Burgess said. “We bumped up our distribution from last month. They (The Idaho Food Bank) sent us food for 280 households, but they bumped us up to 300 this time.”
 “We have been pleased that statewide, the overall number of people we serve has come down from the height of the pandemic,” The Idaho Foodbank President and CEO Karen Vauk said in an email to the Weiser Signal American. “However, we are continuing to closely monitor the need for food assistance and are seeing signs of an increase over the past couple of months. We know that the rising prices in housing, gas, food and other household items are having an impact on the household budgets of Idahoans who are struggling to make ends meet.”
 The food distributed by The Idaho Food Bank is provided through TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is a national hunger relief program where food is purchased by the USDA and distributed by The Idaho Food Bank, here in Idaho, at no cost to families through a network of community partners such as Cornerstone Assembly.
 The USDA provides 100 percent American-grown USDA food and administrative funds to states to operate. 
 To be eligible to receive food under TEFAP, families must fall within a gross monthly income bracket based on family size.
 While the exact products available vary, the goal is to provide food choices that promote variety and proper nutrition.
 On Wednesday, July 20, Burgess and his volunteers distributed fresh strawberries and cherries, frozen chicken breasts and carrots, instant low-fat milk, red salmon, Alaska pollock fillets, brown long-grain rice, peanut butter, and more.
 The mix can also include canned and dried fruits, canned vegetables, fruit juice, dried beans, pasta products, and soups.
 “It always feels good to contribute,” said Weiser resident and volunteer, Mark Greer, during the July distribution. “I also get to meet new friends and see old friends, so it’s a win-win.”
 Fellow volunteer Paula Michell said that she enjoys helping out, especially during what is turning out to be another challenging time for Americans.
 “I do this mainly to help the community; things are changing now, and people need more help,” she said. “Food is getting more and more expensive, and we are happy to help out.”


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