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DSM Organizations Collaborate to Address Food Insecurity During COVID-19

Food Distribution Programs in DSM

August 5, 2020

Amidst the fear, uncertainty, and economic instability of today’s world, I see firsthand the dramatic impact collaboration plays in addressing food insecurity.

Food Bank of Iowa has always depended on dedicated partners. Food Bank of Iowa sources rescued, free and reduced cost food, keeps it safe and trucks it across 55 Iowa counties, delivering much-needed nutrition to a partner organization. Often, it is then folks from a partner organization who carry that food the last few feet and hand it to a food insecure person in their community.

We work with more than 600 health and human service organizations across Iowa, 200 of our most active partners are right here in Polk, Dallas and Warren counties. In these counties, we fill 29 school pantries and provide weekly backpack food for 30 elementary school backpack programs. In addition, we support community action programs, church and community pantries, congregate and senior meal sites, homeless, halfway and rehab facilities, before and after school programs; child, special needs and adult day cares — we collaborate with each to get food to those who need it most.

Collaboration During COVID-19

I am amazed by the way in which our existing partners have stepped up to meet the expanded need during a catastrophic pandemic and grateful for the special people leading those organizations. And I am thrilled by the numerous additional creative opportunities which have surfaced in recent months. Today, I would like to share two inspiring COVID collaboration stories.

From the end of March through June 30, Food Bank of Iowa collaborated with a network of influential church leaders led by Al Perez, Greg and Ashley Baker called Project Zume, to provide food which was sorted, packed and provided to 24,000 metro citizens, with over 500 shut-ins receiving much needed food delivered to their door. 140,000 pounds of food, equaling more than 116,000 meals was lovingly handed to folks trying to make ends meet during extraordinary times. This effort is on-going and will lead to future programming to help more Central Iowans.

Food Bank of Iowa created a prepared meal distribution program with Paul Rottenberg (Orchestrate Hospitality), Jamal Crawford (New Life Center), Steve Havemann (St Vincent de Paul), Leslie Van Der Molen (Catholic Charities) and Izaah Knox (Urban Dreams). Each week from the end of June through August, together we are serving 1,200 to 1,400 prepared meals. Taking advantage of FBOI rescued food and USDA inventory, Orchestrate staff prepares nutritious meals individually packaged for safe curbside pickup at four metro health and human services agencies.

Even though the pandemic impacted Food Bank of Iowa in our last quarter, data reported as we concluded the fiscal year provides a glimpse into how Iowans have responded. Compared to last year, 1,300 new volunteers showed up to help and we saw an overall 45% increase in volunteer hours. We distributed 19 million pounds of food, a 22.5% increase and served almost 20% more people this year when compared to last.

Northwestern Institute for Policy Research, using US Census Household Pulse Survey data, reported a 273% increase in Iowa’s food insecurity rate February 2020 to April/May 2020. Feeding America and McKinsey Consulting project food insecurity to be double, triple amongst families with children, through December 2021. Food Bank of Iowa will continue to fully support long-time committed partners, while seeking new collaborative opportunities as we work toward alleviating hunger in Iowa during a time of expanded need.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

Michelle Book

Michelle Book is president and CEO of the Food Bank of Iowa.