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There are a lot of different food collectives and distributions popping up in the Treasure Valley and that’s important because according to the Idaho Food Bank last year, just in Ada County, there were 40,370 people experiencing food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a lack of access or inability to secure enough food for a healthy lifestyle and places like the Boise Kitchen Collective can help in more ways than one. Not only does it distribute food, the collective is part of the community, and at the forefront of listening to what people experiencing food insecurity may need. It’s not just for people experiencing houselessness, food insecurity affects a lot of people from younger adults trying to make it, to parents that are struggling to make ends meet and many more.

Every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. The collective gives out free hand-made meals to whoever needs one, with no questions asked. The collective also distributes packaged food, sanitary needs, drinks and various supplies.

BW interviewed Annie Madigan, founder of the Boise Kitchen Collective to learn about what it does, how it operates and what the collective needs to keep providing meals to people who need them.

BW: Please explain how the collective got started and what it does, where you put the meals together and how it operates.

AM: The Boise Kitchen Collective started in February after seeing all the good work that Boise Mutual Aid did and continues to do. The Boise Kitchen Collective believes that good meals cooked with love are a human right. Every Wednesday, for the past four months, we have come together as a community to distribute hot meals, fresh foods, nutrition dense snacks, drinks, medicine and personal hygiene items to anyone who wants them.

BW: How many people work at the collective and how many different meal preparers are there?

AM: The Collective is 100% people powered. We aim to have four meal makers, 1 veggie/fruit assembler and two bakers each week. Folks sign up on our Google Doc to contribute at a time when they have the headspace, energy, and resources. It is important that everything: the cooking, the baking, the communication, and time spent is shared so that nobody feels overwhelmed. Meal makers divide their home cooked meal into 7-10 disposable containers for easy and efficient distribution. If a person chooses to bake a sweet or a bread, we ask for 40 servings that are also individually wrapped. With summer approaching, people are now contributing fresh fruit or veggie cups. Meal drop is on Wednesdays at 5pm at Rhodes Skate Park.

Throughout the past few months, the Collective has partnered not just with community members, but also with Boise Period Project to provide people who menstruate with period packs, Idaho Harm Reduction to share resources and support, Taxonomy Press to help folks file their form 1040 to get stimulus checks and Lemon Tree Co. to donate their delicious sandwiches.

Our Goals:

-to distribute hot meals cooked with love

-connect with community

-spread awareness that food cooked with love is a human right

-provide food that is wanted and requested

BW: I think people may think that the idea of free meals is only for people experiencing houselessness but could you speak to how a collective is helpful to the community in all the different ways?

AM: Oftentimes, people have the belief that free food is only for those who do not have any. We believe that good food cooked with love is a human right. We have a strong stance against the old’ “beggars can’t be choosers” saying. In America, so many basic human rights have turned into a privilege, and good food is one of them. The Collective understands that folks might not have the time and energy to prepare a home cooked meal or that families might not have the weekly resources to cook something up for dinner. Our meals are for everyone. We don’t ask questions, except, how are ya and how ya been because we love getting to know folks in the community.

BW: How can people help the collective?

AM: We are always looking for folks to participate and make delicious homemade meals that can be distributed on Wednesday nights. The easiest way to do that is to follow us on Instagram and click the link in our bio which will lead to a Google Doc where participation is encouraged and shared. You can also email us at boisekitchencollective@gmail.com for direct communication. We sometimes ask for monetary donations to get nonperishable, nutrition dense snack items and drinks. We recently started collecting individual, mini and travel sized personal hygiene items and medications. Things like deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, OTC pain medication, Neosporin, ace bandages, TUMS, wet wipes, face wipes, Q-tips, and eye drops. We also acknowledge that helping and contributing looks different for everyone, and are incredibly grateful that people spread awareness of our collective goals via social media.

BW: How many meals are you going through a week? And can you speak to the need of people experiencing food insecurity in Boise, like how much does the need outweigh what the collective is able to do?

AM: We distribute meals to 40-50 community members per week. Many of these folks are experiencing houselessness and/or food insecurity. There are over 2,000 folks who are unhoused in Idaho on any given day. The average monthly rent of a one bedroom apartment in Boise is somewhere around $1,200, and yet Idaho’s minimum wage remains the same- at a whopping $7.25. People working 40 hours a week will earn, what? 15,080 a year? And that’s before taxes are taken out. So if you had a full time job, you could rent a one bedroom at the average Boise price, but that would leave you with an incredibly small amount of money per month for food, utilities, bills and any emergencies that arise.

BW: What are your plans for the future of the collective?

AM: The Kitchen Collective continues to grow to provide mutual aid, redistribute resources and listen to the real needs of real people. We have every intention of stepping up to meet the needs of people in the Boise community that are so often forgotten about or provided with just the bare necessities.

We also recently launched the Boise Kindergarten Collective, which you can find on Instagram under the same name. The Boise Kindergarten Collective will begin on June 15 for kids between 5 and 7 years old. This free summer learning group will be available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-12pm at McCauley. Lunch and materials will be provided.

Kids will have opportunities to develop literacy skills, math skills, communication skills, social + emotional skills.

Priority will go to refugees + immigrants, BIKidsOC, kids without secure housing and kids facing food insecurity.

If interested, direct message us on Instagram at @boisekitchencollective or email boisekitchencollective@gmail.com.

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