Mike Wigen spent nearly three decades in the Idaho Army National Guard, deploying twice to Iraq and serving in the support battalions that make sure the military has what it needs to function.
Now Wigen is on a new distribution-related mission, helping feed the region’s hungry as the new manager of the Idaho Foodbank North Central Branch in Lewiston.
“Without even knowing it, it set me up for this type of job,” Wigen said of his 27 years in the Guard, 22 of them full time. “In the military, we were serving those other combat arms, battalions and companies. It’s like what we’re doing here at the food bank. We’re supporting our partner agencies so they can distribute the food right to the end user, the people in need.”
Wigen, 53, grew up in Minnesota, but sunk his roots into the Gem State and its outdoor lifestyle when his military service landed him in Idaho Falls. The post eventually took him to the Guard’s Lewiston armory about five years ago. He briefly entered retirement a couple of years ago and spent some time reconnecting with his children, who are scattered across three states while attending college.
But service called again, and Wigen applied for the job that opened up in early February when past Lewiston Branch Manager Deborah Snyder parted ways with the Foodbank after just four months. No official reason was given for the move.
In a news release, the food bank touted Wigen’s years of experience in management, strategy and logistics. He will lead overall operations at the Lewiston branch, managing things like transportation, inventory control and community engagement programs.
Wigen’s experience extends beyond his two foreign tours, including two deployments to the U.S. Army’s Fort Irwin National Training Center in California. When combined with his experiences in Iraq and operations in Idaho, Wigen said he has gained the skills to run what is essentially a warehouse and distribution point.
“You kind of learn through that whole process how to support an entity with all classes of supply and all the necessities that soldiers or people would need,” he said.
His first day was last Thursday, but he’s already learned that the people who need the food bank come from a much broader demographic than he expected.
“In today’s economy, there are many, many people living paycheck to paycheck,” Wigen said. “And sometimes when a bill needs to get paid, they just need that box of food assistance for one month or one week. Being able to provide that is a good feeling.”
The Idaho Foodbank was founded in 1984 and, according to information provided by the donor-supported nonprofit agency, it is now the largest distributor of free food assistance in the state. Its partners include schools, pantries, senior centers, feeding sites and shelters. It provided 17.5 million meals to Idaho families in its last fiscal year, according to the news release.