Bread of Life: Nourishing Souls at Wallace Food Bank

by Dallas Jade Graves

Dallas Jade GravesAt the heart of the Silver Valley in Northern Idaho, the Wallace Food Bank is striving to maintain hope for those facing food insecurity in the community. Stepping into the shoes of the previous leader, Michael Hoffman has been the driving force behind the food bank’s journey since he took over in January of last year.

Hoffman, a retired firefighter, U.S. Navy Corpsman, and corrections professional, channels over 30 years of public service. Despite being retired for eight years, he remains committed to serving others, driven by an inner desire to make a positive impact. He found himself partnered with the food bank in July of 2021, shortly after relocating to the area. Additionally, having volunteered at various food banks and community organizations in Coeur d’Alene and Rathdrum during his four-year residence there, Hoffman’s calling to the food bank was inevitable.

When the opportunity to lead the Wallace Food Bank arose, it wasn’t the easiest decision for Hoffman. The previous president, Art Fleming, a pastor with over 40 years of service, was ready to retire and transition out of his role. With a mix of uncertainty and determination, Hoffman met with Fleming and discussed the details before diving in. Little did he know that the role would be more than a monthly commitment – It would become a full-time mission.

Reflecting on his motivation, Hoffman speaks from the heart. Having experienced personal challenges himself, he recognizes that, “we all go through difficult times.” With the weight of the pandemic’s impact and significant economic downturns for many, he understands the difficulties that people in the community may face. “A lot of people are really on the edge of barely surviving, [they’re] near poverty,” he notes. His ethos centers on thinking less of oneself and more of others, extending the olive branch without judgment, recognizing that everyone deserves to eat no matter what tribulations they have faced.

food bank

Michael Hoffman has been the driving force behind the food bank’s journey since he took over in January of last year.

One of Hoffman’s initial challenges was integrating with the existing team and community. Being an outsider presented difficulties, but as people recognized his genuine commitment, trust and relationships began to form. Accepting and honoring change, although tough, was crucial in overcoming these challenges.

Financial constraints became apparent for the food bank as donations dwindled and the distribution room lacked fullness, signaling a need for swift changes. Hoffman, never having written a grant before, devoted himself to learning the craft in order to secure essential funds for the food bank’s survival; the needs of the community have demanded double the inventory over the last couple of years. The urgency for funding became undeniable, and Hoffman’s commitment showed no hesitation. On top of taking it upon himself to learn grant writing, Hoffman is continually looking for ways to spread awareness, host events, and network with other nonprofits across the entire Inland Empire, formulating ideas and opportunities that can help generate income, increase donations, and successfully recruit new volunteers.

The past year boasts several achievements for the Wallace Food Bank. The organization secured three grants and garnered generous donations from local businesses and philanthropists. The list of local donors continues to grow; the community has been an unwavering pillar of support. The food bank’s mission goes beyond Wallace; it extends to serving the entire Silver Valley, and eventually further. As Hoffman wisely puts it, “There’s a lot of darkness in this world…if you can be a light, people need that.”

The introduction of several new events, including the Fourth Meal Food Drive and gatherings at Lookout Pass and Hiawatha Trail, have been a tremendous success. Wallace Food Bank even joined iconic festivals in the town, like Huckleberry Fest and the Historic Blues Festival, making an appearance with a brand-new canopy and banner – a big win in spreading awareness. The team also organized the Turkey Trot, a three-mile fun run to benefit the food bank, and an entirely free Thanksgiving dinner at the Wallace Elks, including delivering holiday meals to 66 families in the county. “It was a grand slam,” Hoffman recalls. Anticipating the future, Hoffman is already looking to set a date for the next big event in April at Lookout Pass, with goals to become an annual calendar highlight for Wallace.

Looking forward, the food bank has ambitious goals. Addressing the issue of accessibility, they are exploring the possibility of moving to a new location with better facilities, especially for those with mobility challenges. Expanding the range of offerings to include perishable and fresh foods is another goal, dependent on recruiting more volunteers to manage the additional workload.

Despite the unanticipated challenges, Hoffman and the team at Wallace Food Bank have persevered. The food bank remains committed to their mission, aiming to surpass last year’s accomplishments, and continuing to make a lasting impact on the community. Hoffman urges readers and community members to know that he has no desire to take credit – instead seeking to give all the glory to God. “I’m blessed,” he says, regarding his persistent drive to help others.

There are various ways people can join in making a difference. The biggest impact comes from the gift of time – Hoffman is adamant that volunteering goes a long way. Donations, be it in the form of food or money, are always welcome. Donations can be dropped off at the Stardust Motel in Wallace, or designated bags can be conveniently purchased at Harvest Foods. Attending events, sharing information, and spreading awareness are also crucial aspects to the growth and expansion of the food bank’s services. In Hoffman’s words, “If your heart’s in it, you can make a positive difference in the community.”

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The Wallace Food Bank also accepts donations via Venmo, @wallacefoodbank.

Dallas Jade Graves lives in the Silver Valley of Northern Idaho. She is an investigative student of the past, philosophy, and psychology. You can often find her exploring historic sites in the PNW.