Food Warehouse Gets Reprieve - For Now

By Paul Menser
Post Register
Printed on Saturday, January 7, 2006

For the time being, the Boy Scouts and letter carriers still have a place to take the canned goods they collect.

A last-minute donation and a relenting landlord has allowed the Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership to keep using the warehouse at 590 W. 19th St.

In late October, the agency's directors concluded that shrinking funds and rising costs would force them to leave the warehouse by Dec. 31. In that event, the food stored in the warehouse would have been shifted to various locations around town.

Neither EICAP nor the agencies that use the warehouse "the Idaho Falls Community Food Bank, the Soup Kitchen and St. Vincent de Paul" wanted to see that happen. So each agency agreed to donate money toward rent while Sheryl Bailey, EICAP's community services director, tried to work out a plan.

"We just couldn't find anywhere else to move," Bailey said.

The agency was paying $1,700 a month to rent the warehouse and $1,500 a month to heat it. The space has to be at least 50 degrees for the food to be stored safely.

But federal funds, in the form of Community Services Block Grants, have been shrinking dramatically, especially since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in late summer.

Two things that happened in December will allow the food to stay at the warehouse, at least temporarily.

First, the landlord, Tracy Bingham, agreed to let them stay for $1,000 a month.

"I figured it was better to have them there than to have it empty," said Bingham, who acquired the property in the summer.

Second, EICAP received a $3,000 donation in December to help pay the utilities.

"This will get us through the winter," said Dean Hallan, chairman of St. Vincent de Paul's service committee.

"It's still only a Band-Aid," he said. "There's still not a long-term solution, as far as I know."

Bailey said she is applying for grants to foundations in hopes of getting the money together for a permanent storage facility.

"I'm pretty optimistic," she said. "There are a lot of foundations that like to see the kind of collaboration we've got going on here."

Staff writer Paul Menser can be reached at 542-6752.