Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hungry Iowans share their story through statewide paper plate campaign

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Iowa Food Bank Association to deliver more than 1,000 paper plates to Capitol

Waterloo, IA, April 26, 2013 – The Iowa Food Bank Association will deliver more than 1,000 paper plates with personal handwritten stories about hunger to the House Leaders at the Capitol beginning next week.

As part of the IFBA’s statewide paper plate campaign, the eight Iowa food banks and their various agencies have been collecting personal stories of the more than 408,000 Iowans who are hungry. These individuals wrote messages on a paper plate about why they use the food bank, how hunger affects them, or what they want their elected officials to know about hunger.

One story from an unsigned plate reads, “I was kicked out of my home by my husband of 14 years. I left with my 2 children with clothes on our back. If it had not been for the food pantry, my children and I, we would have gone hungry.”

The goal of the campaign is to give a voice to those affected by hunger and to highlight the importance of the work of food banks and their agencies. In the words of one individual, “I give thanks every day for the food from the pantry.”

The campaign is part of the IFBA’s efforts to encourage the Iowa legislature to pass a state emergency food program. The bill has passed the Senate and now sits before the House. The program would bring more funds, more food, and greater purchasing power to food banks across the state.

Plate after plate reiterates that, without the food banks, pantries, and other agencies, individuals in Iowa would go hungry.

Another unsigned plate reads, “We lost our jobs. Both of us! Then we lost our home. If it wasn’t for the food pantry, we would have starved. We have 3 small children.”

The food banks participating in the campaign include: Food Bank for the Heartland, Food Bank of Iowa, Food Bank of Siouxland, Inc., Food Bank of Southern Iowa, HACAP Food Reservoir, Northeast Iowa Food Bank, and St. Stephen’s Food Bank. More than 50 agencies from around Iowa also participated in the campaign.

Combatting hunger is a statewide effort. To help your friends and neighbors, contact your elected officials and share with them the importance of a state emergency food program. Together, we can make a difference.

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The Iowa Food Bank Association is a collaborative effort of the eight food banks in Iowa that serve all of its 99 counties. Association members include: Food Bank of Iowa, HACAP Food Reservoir, Northeast Iowa Food Bank, River Bend Food Bank, Food Bank of the Heartland, Food Bank of Southern Iowa, Food Bank of Siouxland and St. Stephen’s Food Bank. http://www.iowafba.org

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So Glad I Stayed…

ImageWIC clinics are an amazing opportunity for mothers and young children throughout Iowa to receive nutrition assistance, health advice as well as vouchers to purchase specific foods to alleviate hunger. This is a wonderful program that can set families on a healthier life path. WIC clinics are one of the best places to help mothers and families sign up for the Food Assistance they need. 

On one of my recent visits to a WIC clinic I was chatting away just waiting for the last client appointment to show. The day had been long with a higher than average number of no-show clients, which for me means fewer potential applicants. So the WIC staff and I compared outreach notes and developed new ways to help the families and individuals we serve. While we kept busy, the day moved slowly as the limited number of clients meant that our ultimate service goals went unfulfilled. 

By the end of the day, we were all looking forward to calling it quits and starting anew the next day. We all started packing up our things and getting ready to leave when in walked *Lisa, a new mother, who was new to the WIC program and had not scheduled an appointment. The receptionist put a smile on introducing her to the program and sent her to the dietician. At this point I had to weigh my options — wait around for the half hour appointment to end on the chance that she needs my help, or save my time for another clinic and call it a day? 

I made the decision in a split second and sat back down. If Lisa needed WIC services maybe she needed Food Assistance as well. I waited for her to finish up with WIC and then I sat down with Lisa to see if she needed my help. It turns out that Lisa had lost her job in February and found out that she was pregnant in the middle of March. By the time she had got up the nerve to visit a WIC clinic she was in desperate need of financial assistance but didn’t really know where to start. I had Lisa signed up for Food Assistance in less than fifteen minutes. But the application was only the beginning of our encounter. Lisa went on to tell me that she had no food left at home and so I recommended a few local food banks and pantries that she could visit to alleviate her need immediately. 

Lisa’s search for help ended with me that day and my day ended on a high note. The fight to end hunger isn’t always glorious or fast-paced. Clients don’t always know where to start in their search for food. But that little extra effort made at the end of a long day puts us all one step closer to ending hunger in Iowa.

Emotion will Fuel Passage of SF439

ImageIn case you missed the recent press coverage of the debate at the capitol earlier this week, click here to link to the Des Moines Register coverage. After 75 minutes of debate, The Iowa Senate passed Senate File 439 that would provide state support to the eight Food Banks serving Iowa. This legislation will also provide tax credits for individuals who wish to donate consumable food to agencies.

As was displayed in the senate chambers on Tuesday, hunger is an emotional issue. There are over 408,000 food insecure Iowans. One in five children in Iowa do not consume enough food to lead a healthy active lifestyle. It is time we change this.

The Food Bill at the capitol – SF439 has passed the Senate with split republican support. We now need your passion and emotions to help us push this bill through the House! It will take everyone. Combating hunger is a statewide effort that requires a public-private partnership – together we can make a difference!

Call your Representative today and ask them to support SF439 – because we can’t afford to have Iowans struggling to get food on their tables.

Written by Cory Berkenes, State Director, Iowa Food Bank Association

They should not have to choose…..

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We have all heard stories about “Gertie”, a determined, if somewhat eccentric, older citizen who picks up pop cans to pay for her prescription co-pays; or maybe in your town, it is “Sophie” a neighbor who someone mentioned has to choose between her medicine and eating 2 or 3 meals a day.  It is tempting to believe that these are rare occasions and mostly anecdotal but the reality is, in the United States, in 2011, nearly 2.5 million households that included at least one senior citizen reported food insecurity.  This seems outrageous in a country with so much wealth and especially in Iowa, where food is one of our greatest resources.  So doesn’t it seem even harder to believe that only about one-third of eligible seniors in Iowa are receiving SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps)? 

There are numerous reasons why they do not apply for the benefits, with pride being the leading cause. This is the generation that survived the Great Depression, always getting along on their own and paying their way. At the same time, many are living without adequate nutrition or sacrificing items they would enjoy if they could afford them.  “Warren” was a Korean war veteran who signed up for SNAP benefits, asking me with tears in his eyes, whether he would be allowed to buy coffee.  It was one of the luxuries he just felt he could not buy and still make ends meet.  Another woman told me that if she received her SNAP benefits and energy assistance, that maybe she could sleep at night again.  These are our parents and grandparents, the ones who gave their full measure to make certain the world was a better place for us to live in. 

As Iowans dedicated to alleviating hunger in our state and nation, it is imperative that we do all we can to encourage and support our seniors to seek food assistance, both through government programs and charitable means in their communities.  We can break down the barriers and stereotypes that have prevented them from asking for help and work together to ensure that no one need choose between food and medicine or food and their heat bill. 

Written by Cindy Jones, SNAP Outreach Worker for the Iowa Food Bank Association