EMMETT -- Hunger is an issue that almost every town in America faces.

In Emmett, the community is working to be hunger free -- and that work is receiving national attention.

The program started when the group running the town's food pantry and weekly dinners suddenly stopped.

The Emmett Valley Friendship Coalition (EVFC) stepped in to keep the efforts going. That was four years ago.

Today, the entire community seems to be involved in the effort -- including the mayor's office, school district officials, churches and local farmers and ranchers.

If you'd been here at this time yesterday it would have been full of food, said Janet Monti, the secretary for EVFC.

Every Tuesday night, the food pantry serves the community dinner. Most recently, the group made turkey a la king. During a typical week, EVFC serves dinner to 185 people and right after the meal food boxes are handed out to just as many families.

But the community is trying to do more than fill the town's bellies, they are working to solve hunger.

Hunger is not food, it's jobs, it's education, information and transportation, and knowing where your resources are. Food is just a symptom of it, said Monti.

The Emmett Valley Friendship Coalition got the town together -- all the elected officials, business leaders, and churches.

Once we got our meetings going we found out there was other programs in our community that we weren't aware of that were already helping, said the Emmett Mayor Bill Butticci.

Instead of working on a common goal separately, the town started working together.

It caught the attention of the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force. They choose the city as the pilot for their first Hunger Free Community. The hope is what is being done in Emmett can be an example for other towns to model.

It is that neighbor to neighbor, community, trying to build that community, said Gem County Commissioner Lan Smith.

The town plans to one day make this food pantry obsolete by having one program build on another.

To solve huger, the community knows they need to improve education, transportation and help people get jobs.

One idea the town has is to use vans churches and schools already have to help people continue their education.

If we could partner with them to get people to those evening classes where they could learn a skill or a trade, we could get them back on their feet, said Butticci.

The town's next step in getting people on their feet is creating a food hub, a place where local farmers and ranchers could sell their products.

It would supply jobs in the food hub, but it would also have the ranchers and the farmers and the orchards be able to hire more people, said Dian Streeby, the executive director of the Gem County Chamber of Commerce.

It's becoming a chain reaction in Emmett and the people here hope it will spread to other cities in Idaho and across the nation.

This past year, a National Emerson Hunger Fellow from the Congressional Hunger Center spent six months in Emmet studying the towns food program. The fellow shared his knowledge with the town but also learned from what it was doing.

A few months ago, the fellow went back to Washington, D.C., to present what he learned to congressmen from all over the country.

Leaders in Emmett's hunger free program were also invited to present at the National Hunger Free Community Summit in Washington, D.C.

Read or Share this story: