Eleven years ago, Roger Simon became executive director of the Idaho Foodbank. Today, his organization is ranked among the top nonprofits in the nation and remains No. 1 in the state for efficiently providing a vital service to Idaho's children, elderly and working poor-relief from hunger.
BW: What is the hunger situation in Idaho today?
RS: With one in eight children still going to bed hungry and 13.7 percent of Idahoans living with ongoing insecurity about their food supply, we are far from realizing Idaho's potential. It hurts me deeply that children, senior citizens and others in the community suffer from lack of nourishment in this great state.
For people who might not know, can you explain exactly what the Idaho Foodbank does?
In business terms, it's a distribution center. We bring in donated and some purchased food from across the country and warehouse it, do a quality review to ensure that it meets health and safety standards and put it out for delivery to over 200 agencies across the state who rely on us for some or all of the food they give out to low-income and needy people. What we do allows these agencies to focus on their true missions of service-they shouldn't have to conduct food drives, too.
What might surprise people about the Idaho Foodbank?
The size of the operation. We distributed 5 million pounds of food in 2004; we have 1 million pounds in our inventory; we have three facilities in the state and volunteers working hours equivalent to 23 full-time positions. Among the nation's nonprofits, we were ranked 11th most efficient in 2004, second most efficient among food banks nationally, and we are No. 1 among Idaho's nonprofits. When you're dealing with the public trust-time, money, donations-efficiency is critical; integrity is everything.
What is a typical day for you?
There is no typical day. I'm a voice for the foodbank; I assist with community understanding and help people become active in creating solutions to hunger; I work with the board to create a vision for the foodbank and tools to make that happen. We have a new strategy: generate sufficient amounts of nutritious food while assuring a strong system of statewide distribution to collectively end hunger in 10 years.
You think 10 years is reasonable?
If I were sitting at home with no food, I would be saying, "Why wait so long?" Every year this country wastes 90 million pounds of food, far more than the whole charity network gives out. This is a society of extravagance, and in lieu of judging that, I would suggest the sharing of it. Give donations, time, funds, and you will find a whole new level of extravagance in the joy that comes with helping others. I have the best job in the entire state of Idaho. I know that sounds dramatic, but day in and day out, I'm working collaboratively with a wonderfully giving community to feed people. Wow.