Volunteer Spotlight

Building community through healthy food


As gardens bloom in the height of summer, gardeners across the country enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

For Julie Steinman, gardening is more than just a creative outlet that puts fresh produce on her family’s table. It also helps her and her husband Tom make a difference in their community.

For several years, the Steinmans have donated hundreds of pounds of fresh produce from their garden to The Hunger Coalition, a local nonprofit that aims to provide healthy food to people with limited resources in the Sun Valley area.

“We’re a food-oriented family,” says Steinman, a senior financial associate in RBC Wealth Management’s Sun Valley, Idaho office. “We’ve always cooked together, baked together, sat down to meal time together. Everyone should be able to enjoy that with their family.”

fresh vegetables basket

A fresh produce basket to be donated by The Hunger Coalition. (Photo credit: Shanti LaRue)

Making a difference with fresh produce

A few years ago, the Steinman garden started to create more produce than the family could go through in a season. Steinman looked around for somewhere she and Tom could donate the excess amounts, and in the process learned about The Hunger Coalition and the need that exists for its services.

Even though the Sun Valley area of Idaho is very wealthy, home to luxury ski resorts and vacation homes, it also has a lot of poverty, Steinman says.

“That can be surprising to a lot of people outside this valley,” she says. “You have the super wealthy, high-net-worth residents, and you have the service workers who support our community. It’s really divided economically.”

That’s where The Hunger Coalition tries to help, says Jeanne Liston, the nonprofit’s executive director.

“Our community is an expensive place to live, and wages don’t match the expenses,” Liston says. “Most of the people we support just can’t make ends meet.”

sun valley farm land

The Hunger Coalition works to provide healthy food to people with limited resources in the Sun Valley, Idaho community. (Photo credit: Charlotta Harris)

The Hunger Coalition provides a wide variety of services, including a healthy food pantry, a community farm, mobile food bank, education and skills training, an internship program for teenagers, and much more.

“We build community through food,” Liston says. “We believe that everyone deserves access to healthy food regardless of their economic circumstances.”

When she first started working with The Hunger Coalition, Steinman estimates she and Tom donated 50 pounds of fresh produce a year. But now, she says, their donation has grown to nearly 150 pounds per year, including potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, herbs and much more, all grown from their garden at home.

Additionally, Steinman regularly volunteers with The Hunger Coalition, helping to distribute food at the nonprofit’s mobile food bank. She has also brought in financial support to the organization in the form of RBC employee volunteer grants.

“Julie and Tom are a really vital part of our family,” Liston says. “Their commitment adds up to so much.”

For Steinman, what started as something simple – trying to get rid of extra produce from the garden – has become something much more meaningful.

“Food is so important for everyone,” Steinman says. “The thought of some of these families going without healthy food breaks my heart.”

julie steinman headshot

Sun Valley, Idaho senior financial associate Julie Steinman.


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