Community Partnership Spotlight: The Idaho Foodbank

When a child is hungry, it can be hard for them to learn. Statewide, more than 67,000 kids are food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. Many of those kids live in Nampa.

Luckily, a long and thriving partnership with The Idaho Foodbank helps to reduce the barriers to healthy food while reducing the stigma of poverty.

Working with individual schools and the districtwide Family and Community Resource Centers, The Idaho Foodbank provides pantry staples for families, as well as packages filled with enough food to feed a child over the weekend. The packages fit neatly inside a student-sized backpack and provide two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and two snacks.

A registered dietitian balances necessary nutritional needs and the weight of the packages with shelf-stable foods kids like and can easily prepare themselves. An annual survey of kids, parents, counselors and teachers allows for adjustments to improve satisfaction.

Unlike some Idaho Foodbank programs that utilize donated food items, Backpack Program food items must be purchased in bulk to meet the highly specific requirements for a child to easily open the food if they are home alone, as well as for food that is nutritious and appealing. “We try to balance a lot of different priorities,” said Theresa Vawter, Public Relations & Government Affairs Coordinator for The Idaho Foodbank.

To keep up with demand and keep costs as low as possible, volunteers work throughout the school year to prepackage as many Backpack meals as possible.

“After starting the backpack program, we learned that some of the kids were sharing their food with other people in their families,” Vawter said. “So, we created the school pantry program to provide families with access to food.” She noted that since schools are anchors in the community and families go there often, seeing a parent coming in and out of their child’s school would not be unusual and thus reduces any stigma related to need. 

The school pantry program can order in-demand items from a shopping list, which is filled based on availability. A lot of this food comes from donations from Treasure Valley residents during the annual Stamp Out Hunger or Scouting for Food drives, among others. Other needed staples are purchased through cash donations.

“With a $5 donation, we can provide food for up to 15 meals,” Vawter said. “We also can leverage all of our donations to purchase larger quantities at lower prices.”

An average of 1,000 people per month are served in the Nampa School District through the Backpack and School Pantry programs.

Why it Matters

In school surveys about the impact of the School Pantry and Backpack Programs, school employees have shared that, “it is a great program for our families. We see the excitement in the children’s eyes and know their families depend on the help these meals provide.” They have also noticed improvements among the students who participated in these programs around their attendance, behavior, energy level, and self-esteem. Students also report that it makes them feel good to have food and support in the face of family challenges.

How to Donate

Monetary donations are always welcome, as well as foods that help The Idaho Foodbank reach its fit nutrition goals, such as whole grain pasta, canned or dried beans, canned fruits and vegetables (particularly low sodium/low sugar), etc. In addition, volunteers are always needed for a variety of tasks. Learn how to donate time or money at

Anyone in need of food can also visit the Food Locator on The Idaho Foodbank’s website to find food pantries around the state at