United we will become a healthier Idaho Falls

I grew up hearing my dad talk about the depression in South Dakota and how he and his seven older siblings faced real hunger. The photographs showing their ill-sized hand-me-downs and bare feet could easily have been taken by Dorothea Lange. My grandfather died at 43 in 1920 during the waning stages of the 1918 flu epidemic when my dad was just two weeks old. My great grandmother’s deliveries of staples and produce kept food on the table.

“We would have starved to death without her help,” I can still hear my dad say.

We’re fortunate that Idaho Falls is a caring community where, during the crisis of our day, people are helping those in need as members of our community family. The East Idaho Quarantine Mutual Aid Facebook page has nearly 4,000 members after being up for just one day with offers, such as free shopping for shut-ins, free potatoes and seniors-only hours at local grocery stores. One kindness after another.

Nine cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Idaho with, thankfully, no deaths so far. A Brigham Young University-Idaho student is one of the latest confirmed cases.

Rightly, both Districts 91 and 93 have closed schools until at least March 27 and are implementing contingency plans for possible long-term closure. Administrators from both districts said they will ensure every child has a computer or access to one if online instruction becomes necessary.

In District 91, spokesperson Margaret Wimborne said a process is being finalized to provide breakfast and lunch during the school closure, however long it lasts, for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. She urged people wanting to help students in need to donate to the Community Food Basket and said Mistty Frost at frosmist@d91.k12.id.us is available to answer questions people may have. District 93 Facilities Director John Pymm said that a trial run of delivering lunches to the highest need schools will be conducted with the lunches served outside the schools, meals will be bused to students in neighborhoods with the greatest food insecurity and backpacks containing food will be provided to the neediest students. Pymm said that providing the meals is a “big concern” and asked that people wanting to help offset the cost contact the district’s child nutrition supervisor, Heather Plain, at plainh@93mail.com.

The efforts to keep the nearly 10,000 students at both districts who qualify for free or reduced lunch fed during the school closures are commendable. Community Food Basket Director David Manson expects a significant surge in demand and requests that monetary donations be made through the organization’s website at www.feedidahofalls.org.

During the 1918 flu epidemic, a third of the world became infected. The mortality rate in some Idaho towns was 50%. New modeling shows that diligent social distancing could reduce tenfold COVID-19 deaths. Finding creative and compassionate ways to prevent together — from a social distance — unnecessary tragic consequences of the pandemic we face will help us return to normality faster and be a healthier, united Idaho Falls.