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Latter-day Saint church building will be new home for local food bank


IDAHO FALLS – A generous donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will provide a larger venue for a local food bank to serve patrons in eastern Idaho.

An old Latter-day Saint meetinghouse at 351 West 14th Street in Idaho Falls has been donated to the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket, which means the food basket will move its distribution center to the 17,389-square-foot building.

Ariel Jackson, the food basket’s executive director, tells the new building is more than 13 times the size of their current location at 245 North Placer Avenue. The nonprofit is planning to move into the space in the next six to nine months following a renovation project.

“The plan is to receive the keys in December after they’ve removed the steeple, signage and art from the building,” Jackson says. “The building doesn’t have a dock for us to drop food off, so we need a dock in the back and shelving. We also didn’t want to uproot our families in the middle of the holidays. It’s not fun moving in the snow.”

Half of the building will be used as the food bank distribution center and the other half will be used for community events, such as self-reliance education classes and other charitable purposes.

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The LDS Church has been an ongoing contributor to the food basket over the years and this is the organization’s largest donation to date.

lds church building pic 3
The Idaho Falls Community Food Basket will move into its new building following a renovation project. | Courtesy: Jay Hildebrandt

It comes at a time when the number of people who benefit from the food basket continues to grow. It distributed the equivalent of 1,738,105 meals in the last year, serving 1,043 families every month.

“The need continues to grow at unprecedented rates, challenging our ability to safely distribute food to those in greatest need,” Jackson says in a news release.

The larger building will not only improve efficiency in distributing food, but will enhance safety for patrons in a welcoming indoor venue.

“We had to call an ambulance three times this summer from patrons having to stand in the sun and now we’re hitting the winter months. This gives us the opportunity to get our patrons out of the weather … to wait in a building that’s warm or cool (depending on the time of year),” says Jackson. “Our biggest goal was to get a bigger space and to get our patrons out of the weather, so this will be great.”

food donations
Food donated to the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket | Ariel Jackson

The church building dates back to 1950 and hasn’t been used as a meetinghouse for at least a decade. A news release from the Church indicates it most recently functioned as an administrative office for full-time missionaries.

The Church wanted to sell or donate it and approached the Regional Council for Christian Ministry, the food basket’s umbrella organization, to see if it was interested in the space.

“They liked what we did, realizing that we were meeting needs in the community and that we just didn’t have (adequate) space,” Jackson explains.

Elder Fernando R. Castro, a member of one of the Church’s Quorums of Seventy overseeing members in this area, is thrilled to provide a much larger space for the food bank’s mission.

“We are grateful to the food basket for its many years of dedicated service helping individuals and families experiencing food insecurity and for the opportunity to re-purpose this building in such a meaningful way,” Castro says in a news release.

Jackson is appreciative of “the remarkable gesture” from the LDS Church.

The food basket’s current building on Placer Avenue is owned by the First Presbyterian Church. Jackson is grateful for its support over the years. Once the move occurs, Jackson says it will be utilized for other nonprofit entities.

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Its warehouse location at 1895 North Boulevard will remain in operation.

volunteer at food bank
Volunteers at the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket | Ariel Jackson

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