May 5—Last March at a Reno, Nev., airport, Safari Pearl co-owner Kathy Sprague posted on the comic store's Facebook page offering food to those in need and inviting the public to drop food off at the store so it can be distributed.
"From the time I posted that to the five hours later when we got home (from Reno), we had a couple hundred dollars in cash and a few hundred pounds of food," Sprague said.
Safari Pearl started distributing the food from the store to those in need, but the food donations became too much for the store to handle.
Enter West Side Food Pantry, which Inland Oasis opened Sunday at its community center, 730 W. Pullman Road in Moscow, behind Liberty Tax and Loans.
Inland Oasis, in which Sprague serves as board president, is a nonprofit organization that provides support to the LGBTQ community on the Palouse.
Food insecurity has long been an issue on the Palouse. The term refers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods, according to Feeding America's website.
Latah County's food insecurity rate is 11.7 percent, which is higher than Idaho's 10.8 percent rate, according to Feeding America's most recent data from 2018.
West Side Food Pantry is open seven days a week and offers several types of food, including nonperishables, milk, eggs, cheese, meat and gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free foods for those with food allergies, Sprague said.
It also offers kitchen items like dish soap, pots and pans, silverware, microwaves, as well as feminine hygiene products.
"If all you have is a microwave to cook food in and your microwave dies and you don't have money to buy a new microwave, you're eating apples," Sprague said. "You're eating cold Spaghettios out of a can."
Moscow has other food banks/pantries, including the Moscow Food Bank next to St. Mary's Church and the Vandal Food Pantry at the University of Idaho.
Sprague said the West Side Food Pantry provides an option for people living on the west side of Moscow. She said, for example, retrieving food at the Moscow Food Bank is difficult for those without a vehicle on the west side of town
"If you're on foot, Moscow is bigger than you think it is," Sprague said.
The West Side Food Pantry is next to a SMART Transit bus stop, so people can grab food and jump on the bus, she said.
The pantry occupies part of the Inland Oasis community center. The rest of the center is under construction.
Sprague said the pantry is partnering with the Latah County Democrats to distribute food to rural food banks in the county. She said it is also in the process of filling out paperwork to receive food shipments from the Idaho Foodbank.
Sprague said the food pantry needs volunteers. Those interested can contact Inland Oasis at inlandoasis.org.
The pantry is open noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
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