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Monday, November 15, 2010

Food for Thought

COMPASS staff are conducting a holiday food drive to support the Idaho Foodbank. As part of that food drive, we’ve been looking at statistics related to hunger in Idaho.

One common statistic is how many people must choose between medicine/medical care and food. In Idaho, 34% of people who receive food from the Idaho Foodbank say they must make this choice. That is a troubling statistic.

However, an equally troubling, but much less commonly quoted statistic is the number of people who must choose between food and transportation. In Idaho, 37% of people who receive food from the Idaho Foodbank say they must make this choice; that percentage jumps to 49% when asked specifically about buying gas for a car.

Let me say that again:

Thirty-seven percent of food recipients say they must choose between purchasing food and paying for transportation.

That is transportation that could potentially get someone to a job, to a doctor to receive medical care, to a place of worship, or anyplace else they need to go. Lack of access to transportation can be devastating – economically, socially, and physically.

As part of the transportation industry, what can we do about this?

We live in a very auto-dependent state – sprawling communities with limited bus service. Without a personal vehicle, it is nearly impossible to get to work, the grocery store, or the doctor. Can we fix that?

“Community Choices,” the growth scenario that is the basis for Communities in Motion, the regional long-range transportation plan for the Treasure Valley, encourages more compact growth, with jobs, shopping, etc. close to housing. This would allow people to walk or bike to their destinations instead of needing to rely on a vehicle. The plan also calls for significantly increased transit – a much more affordable way to get around town than a private automobile.

We talk about these things as smart planning, good land use, and wise use of our resources. However, until I read the statistic above, I hadn’t thought about them in terms of poverty and meeting basic human needs.

Is it possible to be so successful in planning our transportation future that eventually no one has to choose between food and transportation?

Now there is something to chew on.

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Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.