Monthly Archives: January 2014

VISTA’s Participate In MLK Day of Service!

MLK Day Adie“A Day On, Not a Day off!”  Each of our VISTA Members took time on January 20th, 2014 to volunteer for a service project in their community.

Adie – Food Bank of Southern Iowa

“I was at Helping Hand in Albia that day. I was there all morning, the ”pantry” part wasn’t open so  I helped them sort clothes.”

MLK Day Trish

Trish – Food Bank of Iowa 

 “I volunteered at the Volunteer Center of Story County making felt hats and scarfs.”

Claudia – HACAP

I volunteered at the Science Center here in Cedar Rapids Monday morning along with nearly a dozen Youth Achievement

MLK Day Claudia 5Corps members from the area.  We were assigned different tasks helping out around the Science Center, and I was in a group with 4 other girls who were in charge of sketching and painting a dinosaur mural on canvas.  Despite most of us not being very artistic, I must say that our dinosaur turned out amazing!  More volunteers came in the afternoon to paint the skeleton of the dinosaur on top of what we had painted with some type of glow in the dark/UV paint that would be invisible in normal light, but would show up under a black light.  The canvas will be put on display in the Science Center so that the children that come to the center can see what a Stegosaurus looked like on both the outside, and inside.  It was a fun way to be able to volunteer on MLK Day and to have a unique way to give back to the community!

Annaleah and Virginia -Food Bank for the Heartland

For MLK Day of Service, the Food Bank for the Heartland VISTAs went to Open Door Mission and helped in their kitchen. They serve about 2000 meals per day. We helped with food preparation for the evening meal. Some of us diced ham, others packed snack foods, while some others also mashed eggs. We got a workout! There were other volunteers there who helped make the time go very quickly with their good attitudes and humor.

MLK Day FBFHWe also volunteered at the Food Bank for the Heartland on the Wednesday immediately after MLK Day of Service. We got a taste of what it’s like to be a regular volunteer here because we did case-lotting, where we set up and filled boxes to a certain weight with certain products. In two hours, one team did 98 boxes weighing 20 pounds each of candy and the other team did 144 boxes. Some of the boxes were 15 pounders full of cookies and the others were 25 pounders of assorted canned foods. We estimate that we packaged around 4000 pounds of food for the agencies to order!

Jennifer – Riverbend Food Bank

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I volunteered at one of our numerous food pantries. I have developed a wonderful relationship with the pantry director, as well as volunteered here in the past, and was excited to return. I was given the task of handing out frozen blueberries and instructing the clients on how much bread they could have. We had a steady crowd for the 2 hours we were open and MLK Day Jennifereveryone was very kind and gracious. I realized a couple of years ago when I first volunteered at a food pantry how hard it must be for the person to admit that they need assistance. I know many of them are ashamed that they have to ask for help. Today, I realized something else. Some individuals turn down the food they are given. For instance, a few people passed by the bread table today without taking any. I understand this has to take a lot of courage to refuse food that is given to them at no cost. But they are being a great blessing to others in need. The individuals that don’t take the food do so because they simply do not like it, or because they or their family members have an allergy to the product. Instead of taking the food because they feel that they should, they kindly say “no” because they know it will just go to waste in their household. I hope they understand that this simple act can help feed another hungry family. My Day of Service had a great impact on me and made my drive to help hungry people in my community even stronger.

Amy – Northeast Iowa Food Bank

I worked with a volunteer group this morning which included a family that brought in their kids to serve at the food bank.  We worked on sorting and cleaning the reclamation food that came in on Friday.  We completed 3 palettes before lunch time!

Liz – IFBA

For Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, I volunteered at a meal packing event for Meals from the Heartland at AIB. The goal for the day was to 18,000 meals with 350 volunteers, we exceeded the goal and over 21,000 meals were packed! Meals from the Heartland is a nonprofit volunteer based program that packages meals for hungry people both internationally and locally.

MLK Day Liz

For more information on how you can participate in the Martin Luther King Day of Service, go to


A Day in the life of a SNAP Outreach Worker…….

“Ever since my sister, Katie Reidy, started working for the Iowa Food Bank and the Feeding America Association I always wondered what exactly she did on a daily basis. A few times I even asked her and Katie would always humbly respond that she assisted in signing people up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or as many know it as SNAP. This response sounded simple enough therefore I never questioned her further as to how she does it, why she does it and what it means to her. However, this last fall I was required to make a short documentary on a person, organization or group that is helping change the world. Instantly, my thoughts were directed to Katie. There were so many unanswered questions as to what Katie did on a daily basis and more importantly why she did it. Katie was more than willing to give up some of her time to dedicate to this documentary and to further explain and show me why and how she assists the people of Iowa through the Feeding America Association. Over 60 hours of creating this documentary I have learned the meaning behind this organization and how it helps to shape and mold our world into a better place. My goal in creating this documentary, was to capture the meaning behind the motivation of SNAP Outreach workers, like Katie. At the end of my time spent with Katie I found myself humbled by what she does on a daily basis and motivated to get involved. Overall, there is one message that will always remind me of why my sister does her job; ask not what others can do for you but rather what you can do for others.”

-Bridgett Reidy


See the documentary at:;sm=3

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Proud to Play a Role in Feeding a Nation

Dairy farmers take pride in their role in feeding a hungry nation, and Dave and Pam Bolin of Clarksville, Iowa, are no exception. The Bolins’ farm includes 70 milk cows, which are a mixture of all registered Holsteins, Jerseys and Guernseys; an equal number of young stock, and 220 acres of farmland, all of which makes Dave and Pam happy to call Beaver Creek Farm their home for the last 34 years.

Purchased in 1890 by Dave’s great-grandfather, George Washington Bolin, the Bolins are extremely proud to represent the fifth generation in this family Century Farm. The farm’s mission still holds strong: producing the highest quality milk, with the lowest inputs possible.

Dave and Pam grew up in the same town, dated in high school, attended Iowa State University together and have worked together, hand-in-hand, for more than three decades doing what they love—producing a wholesome, great-tasting food to help feed our nation.

Dave and Pam have three adult sons: Matt (Ashley), Dan (Lynn), and James (Nicole), and five grandchildren. Dan and his wife, Lynn, and their two children, Amara and Vance, join Dave and Pam to make the successful team at Beaver Creek Farm.

“We feel blessed beyond words that we have worked together,” says Dave. “And, now seeing the next generation working with us makes me proud, as a dairy farmer, and especially as a father.”

Off the farm, Dave and Pam are both well-known and well-liked among their peers and community. They both are leaders in areas that matter the most to them. Dave has served on various ag-related boards and is currently Butler County Farm Bureau president, while Pam’s endless dedication and involvement shines deeply with her roles on Midwest Dairy Association Iowa Division and Corporate boards, Dairy Management Inc. Board, and Swiss Valley Farms, where she has been chairman for the last six years.

Pam’s dear friend, fellow Iowa dairy farmer and Midwest Dairy board member, Joe Lyon of Toledo, brainstormed the idea of donating dairy products to their local food banks. “At first we were told it could not be done,” says Pam. “However, when there is a will, there is a way.”

And, lucky for those in need, neither Joe nor Pam, or any of the other Iowa dairy farmers were going to take no for an answer. Today, not only has Midwest Dairy donated to the Food Bank of Iowa, but other states have followed suit and feeding the hungry has a role in the national dairy promotion program.

In 2009, $65,000 was donated to help Iowa’s six food banks offer dairy products and health information to those in need. Each year after, Midwest Dairy teamed up with various organizations, such as Star 102.5’s Combat Hunger community food drive, Iowa Farmers Feed US and “Together We Can!” to help match or increase the original dollar amount contributed.

Per USDA guidelines, Midwest Dairy has provided nutrition education materials with its donations to highlight the benefits of consuming three servings of milk, cheese and yogurt every day.

The success of the Food Bank of Iowa partnership makes the Bolin family smile wide. “Even in Iowa, food insecurity is a big issue,” says Pam. “Our dairy donations give a nutrient-rich product that many would otherwise be without.”

This is one reason why Pam has enjoyed her role of educating and promoting others about dairy goodness. “Sharing our great dairy story has always been one of my passions,” she says. “With our nation dealing with both food insecurity and obesity, we need to show how dairy provides a solution for both.”

Dave not only supports his wife’s endless efforts, but agrees wholeheartedly with the need for promotion and education.

Back at the farm, Dave feels his milk cup overflows daily. “I am so thankful to work side-by-side with the woman I love, and together we’ve been able to raise our three sons on our family farm,” he says. “It’s so rewarding to see them now serve the same roles, as husbands and fathers.”Image

Maria Shriver Campaigns Against Poverty….

As we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the War on Poverty, pundits line up on both sides to argue success or failure of LBJ’s initiative. One side deems it a failure without much consideration, while the other is quick to point out that while the funding was present, before being funneled for other projects, that true progress was being made. So, 50 years later, our nation is still battling poverty and all of its consequences, including hunger. The last few days, Maria Shriver has been spotlighted on “Meet the Press”, the “Tonight Show”, “Today” and others talking about the Shriver Report. Although she focuses mainly on women and their issues, it is profoundly significant to those of us who are fighting to end hunger. Nearly one-third of working women struggle in low paying jobs, raising their children “on the brink”; one paycheck, one illness or one small catastrophe from losing it all. I am sure if Maria’s father, Sargent Shriver, who was Johnson’s lead on the War on Poverty, or her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and all of her Kennedy kin would be very proud of her efforts to carry on their work in her own journalistic style, by creating necessary awareness, which will result in action.

Visit to learn more.

Cindy Jones
SNAP Outreach

Governor ignores 400,000 hungry Iowans: IFBA State Director responds to the Condition of the State address

indexI was honored to claim a seat in the House Chambers as our Governor – the Honorable Terry Branstad -delivered his Condition of the State address. It was a true pleasure to be present and surrounded by state leaders and members of the general public that have made a difference in Iowa over the past year.

A well-spoken and veteran governor delivered a smooth and convincing speech. Unfortunately, he ignored the 12.8% of Iowans that live under the federal poverty level and the 12.9% of Iowans that struggle with hunger. The governor did not acknowledge the 19.3% of all children in Iowa that do not know where their next meal is coming from. He did not mention that one in five children who are hungry do more poorly in school and lack the concentration to succeed.[1] He did not mention that one in seven expecting mothers in Iowa may be at greater risk for major depression and other mental health problems.[2] The governor did not mention that food insecurity is associated with a range of chronic illnesses.[3] We cannot ignore these numbers.

If the governor wishes for Iowa to become the healthiest state in the nation and is determined to make our education system the best, he will need to make fighting-hunger a priority. The lasting effects of hunger on health, education, and the economy are alarming.

As the governor concluded his address and exited to a standing ovation, I reflected on his words – or lack of words in this case – and wondered how such a glaring social injustice can be completely omitted from a speech of this magnitude. I don’t know the answer to this. Quite frankly, we don’t have time to understand the reasoning. What I do know is that WE ALL need to strap on our boots, grab our megaphones, and speak up for our friends and neighbors who struggle with hunger. WE ALL need to emphasize the importance of a public-private partnership in combating hunger in our state. WE ALL need to fight for our fellow Iowans to ensure EVERYONE has a fair chance at achieving the American Dream. We will not ignore this issue and we don’t think the Governor should either.

[1] Cook, John and Jeng, Karen. Child food insecurity: The economic impact on our nation. Feeding America.

[2] Heflin, Siefert, and Williams (2005) Food insufficiency and women’s mental health: Findings from a 3-year panel of welfare recipients. Social Science & Medicine, 61, 1971-1982.

[2] Whitaker, Phillips, and Orzol (2006) Food insecurity and the risks of depression and anxiety in mothers and behavior problems in their pre-school-aged children. Pediatrics, 118, e859–e868.

[3] Seligman, Laraia, and Kushel (2009) Food Insecurity Is Associated with Chronic Disease among Low-Income NHANES Participants. Journal of Nutrition, 140, 304-310

Will you Join Us in Our Fight Against Hunger?

A new year has arrived which brings new opportunities and a convenient transition for renewed hope and enthusiasm. Hunger in Iowa is a persistent issue — yet, each year we learn and build the network of advocates and supporters. We made great strides in our quest for food equality last year; let’s do even better this year.
January also marks the beginning of the 2014 legislative session – the 85th Iowa General Assembly. On Monday, January 13th, Senators and Representatives from across the state will convene at the Iowa State Capitol. Opening session for both the Senate and House will be Monday followed by a joint session on Tuesday, January 14th with Governor Branstad delivering the Condition of the State speech. Following is where we (all of us) come in!
Our legislators work for us – it is up to us to advocate for our friends and neighbors who are struggling with hunger. There are 395,620 Iowans who don’t know where their next meal is coming from; this is 12.9% of the total population. Of that number, 137,120 are children (19.3% of all children in Iowa). This is 395,620 and 137,120 too many. The Iowa Food Bank Association and eight partner Feeding America food banks are committed to solving this issue.
Over the next few months, we’ll be requesting your support as we work on policies that encourage food equality for all Iowans. I hope you will answer our request by calling your representatives, encouraging them to visit a local food pantry or feeding organization, and joining us at the capitol as we meet with our leaders. Let’s do this together. Let’s make it possible for all of our friends and neighbors to live a healthy, productive life. We can accomplish anything in numbers – will YOU join us?
To join our growing list of advocates, visit our website – – and opt-in to receive our e-newsletter.
Thank you, in advance, for your support!
-Cory Berkenes

The Mobile Pantry Impact

I was excited when I found out I would be going to the Casey mobile pantry in December. It was only the second mobile pantry I’ve visited since starting my VISTA service and I’d heard of the committed coordinator and outreach done to promote the pantry. Even though I knew of the success of the mobile, I was still surprised when I arrived a half hour early to find there was a long line of people already assembled in the below freezing weather.
Though I was happy to see all the people getting the food they needed, I was also emotional about the situation. I felt such sympathy and empathy for those in line that it made me tear up. How could I as an individual help so many people in need? Was there any way I could make a difference? I think most VISTAs enter the program because they want to help people. They believe that they can really change the world. And they can and do. But there are times when we see the poverty we are trying to alleviate, and it makes us wonder if we are really making an impact.
Around a half hour into the mobile, I realized that there were more people in line than food that was available. I could see the long line of people still waiting outside, expecting food when they got to the front. I was sure many people were there to get food for over the holidays when their children were out of school and families were gathering together to celebrate Christmas. What kind of Christmas would they be able to have if they were hungry?
I left early, feeling like a coward, so I wouldn’t have to see the faces of the people turned away. I sat in my car for a few minutes, wanting to contemplate what I had seen. It was then that I recommitted myself to the mission of my VISTA assignment and the people I am serving. Though VISTAs do not participate in direct service, we are aiding the people who do work with people in poverty and helping them do their jobs.
I’m sure I will find myself struggling with balancing my emotions many more times through my term of service. And though this will be a hard year to get through at times, it will also be one of the most rewarding and productive.

Trish O’Brien
AmeriCorps VISTA
Food Bank of Iowa