Monthly Archives: May 2014
Summer reminds us that the world was created in abundance. With fruit stands popping up on the side of the road and farmers’ markets overflowing, summer is a time to marvel at the bounty of this Earth. Sadly, during this time of seeming abundance, child hunger is actually at its worst. Low-income children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs for nourishment during the school year are often left without enough to eat. In Iowa, 92.3% of the children who receive meal assistance are not accessing a summer feeding program on any typical summer day. The Iowa Food Bank Association is doing our part to combat summer hunger for Iowa’s children. But, despite our efforts, we are still only able to reach a fraction of children in need. From August to May, children are at school. But, every summer, those children are spread across every corner of the state, often in rural communities. Summer feeding programs are operated in concentrated areas of need, but sites can’t be built down the street for every needy family. Even if a family wants to access a site across town, often times transportation isn’t available, and little Mark or Mary can’t drive themselves to a site while mom or dad is at work. Summer feeding programs- where available- are essential to closing the summer hunger gap. We can’t do it alone. A public/private partnership must be present to continue to fund and develop summer feeding programs across Iowa. We need more flexibility to reach children who don’t have access to a meal site. Here’s a thought to keep in mind as school in most communities wrap up this week. Almost half of the the children in Iowa’s 365+ school districts receive free or reduced lunch assistance. 92.3% of them will struggle with hunger over the summer. For most of us, summer conjures up happy memories of savoring sweet corn and juicy watermelon at family cook outs. But for too many children, summer means HUNGER. It mean the lethargy and listlessness that accompany unfilled bellies. It means consuming empty, but fulfilling calories that contribute to this nation’s child obesity problem. There is nothing more important to the future of our state, than our children. And, there is nothing more basic than providing them with a nutritious meal. Join us in urging our elected officials to make the summer hunger gap a top priority. Click here to learn about Iowa’s 8 Feeding America food banks and the programs they provide for Iowa’s nearly 140,000 children who struggle each day with hunger. FEED THE NEED | NOURISH YOUR NEIGHBOR -Amy Rogalla AmeriCorps VISTA
Approximately, 75% of the individuals accessing emergency food through food pantries, community kitchens and shelters are eligible for SNAP, but 25% of them have never applied (Hunger in America 2010, Feeding America). In order to address this gap, the North Liberty Community Pantry has partnered with the Iowa Food Bank Association to provide SNAP Outreach assistance on-site during select food pantry hours. This additional service allows pantry clients to sign-up for Food Assistance (formerly known as Food Stamps), at the pantry with the help of a trained volunteer.
The North Liberty Community Pantry (NLCP) encourages families to shop for their own food as often as once per week. In 2006 we took a leap of faith and changed from distributing pre-sacked bags to providing a client-choice method of food distribution. Families choose what they need and there are few limits on more expensive, less available items such as meat and toiletries.
The Pantry is a place where people come together and support one another. Community is built every day in the Pantry. The families we serve help each other, volunteers and families get to know each other, and the community becomes stronger as a whole.
In 2013 the NLCP served 531 families who made 7521 visits to the Pantry. We distributed more than 240,000 pounds of food and toiletries. More than 9300 pieces of clothing including special distributions of coats and socks & underwear were also distributed to families we serve. During our annual family interview, 40% of families reported that the Pantry meets their needs for 2-3 meals per day – the NLCP is the primary food source for these families. We have 130 volunteers who dedicated more than 7700 hours of volunteer time in 2013.
By providing SNAP Outreach as part of our pantry services we are helping families to become more financially independent. Furthermore, these benefits allow families to purchase foods to supplement what they receive from our pantry and are especially helpful for clients with dietary restrictions. By incorporating this new service within our pantry we are better able to serve our community.
-Katie Reidy, SNAP Outreach Coordinator
Every year since 1963, May has been designated by the National Council of Senior Citizens as the month for the United States to appreciate and celebrate older adults and their contributions to our communities. Likewise, Feeding America participates in the movement
by raising awareness and showing support for seniors facing hunger in our country.
Feeding America and its network of more than 200 food banks unite to bring attention to the issue of senior hunger and share ways for individuals to get involved to help solve it.
Lack of access to food among seniors can cause severe health consequences. A recent study released jointly by Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger revealed that food insecurity in seniors is associated with a number of diseases and other negative health consequences, including depression, heart attacks, asthma and congestive heart failure.
YOU CAN HELP! As individuals, charities, businesses and government, we all have a role to play in getting food to our neighbors in need.
Join the Iowa Food Bank Association in the fight against senior hunger!
To join our campaign, make a sign using a black marker and large font that says “#solve senior hunger.” Be creative. Use non traditional materials such as a pizza box, paper plate, brown paper lunch bag, or even a piece of recycled card board.
Pose for a photo with a senior you know, while holding your #SolveSeniorHunger sign. Next, go to Facebook and search for the Iowa Food Bank Association and like our page. Also search for “Feeding America” and like our national organization’s page.
Share your photo! Below are some sample posts you can use with your photo. Be sure to share it to the Iowa Food Bank Association’s wall!
Over 4.8 M seniors in the US struggle w/ hunger. Help expose the issue and join @FeedingAmerica to #SolveSeniorHunger
Senior hunger = higher risk for chronic health conditions. Help @FeedingAmerica #SolveSeniorHunger – post your senior photo to support!
I’m helping #SolveSeniorHunger! JOIN ME and @FeedingAmerica by taking a pic with a senior you know to show your support.
SUGGESTED FACEBOOK POSTS
My [insert photo relation here, i.e.: husband, grandma or grandson] and I are helping to #SolveSeniorHunger by exposing the issue. Join us and @FeedingAmerica by taking a photo with a senior you know to show your support for over 4.8 million seniors facing hunger in America.
Seniors who struggle with hunger are more likely to report heart attacks, develop asthma and experience congestive heart failure than seniors who are food secure. Join me, my [insert photo relation here, i.e.: grandpa or granddaughter] and @FeedingAmerica by
posting your own photo with a senior you know to show your support and help #SolveSeniorHunger in America.
2014 Legislative Wrap-up: Missed Opportunities and Unfinished Business
Hope and Promise. These are two words that could have easily described the 2014 Iowa Legislative Session. Unfortunately, the combined work of our elected officials has forced 390,000 hungry Iowans to fend for themselves.
Two of our bills, HF2471 (Income tax check-off hunger fund) and SF2356 (sales tax exemption for food banks), received nearly unanimous bipartisan support — 94-1 and 49-0 respectively — from their originating chamber. This means that only 1 out of 143 Senators and Representatives voted against these two bills. So, how did these two bills not pass? The House simply failed to bring SF2356 to the floor for concurrence. Likewise, the Senate simply failed to bring HF2471 to the floor for concurrence. Both pieces of legislation received bipartisan support and would have brought hope and promise to the 12.7% of Iowans (nearly one in five children) struggling with hunger. Iowa missed a great opportunity simply because business was left unfinished – an outcome that would not be tolerated in most other professional settings.
During the 2013 Session, the governor approved of a $1 million state matching appropriation for food banks. Though this effort has already leveraged nearly 4.5 million meals for Iowans (with an expected total impact of 9 million meals), the matching appropriation was not renewed this session.
Still, we prefer to focus on the successes of the session. Iowa Food Bank Association and partner food bank staff, volunteers, and anti-hunger advocates stood up for our friends and neighbors. We shared the heart-wrenching stories of our children going to school hungry, the stories of the families that experienced a debilitating disaster, the story of an Iowa man who suffered a serious injury on the job and hasn’t been able to work for ten years. We shared the stories of fellow Iowans that now struggle with hunger due to common misfortunes. We shared these stories and invited people to get involved.
The lack of attention at the capitol this session has only fueled our fire. There is still unfinished business in the state and we, at the Iowa Food Bank Association, do not intend to walk away until all Iowans are recognized as valued citizens. Will you join us as we continue this fight?
My time as the IFBA Policy and Advocacy intern has been a rewarding one. Not necessarily rewarding in terms of overall accomplishment (though I am proud of the work we did), but very rewarding in terms of experience. I was pleased to have the opportunity to gain an in-depth look at Iowa’s legislative process through meeting with legislators and following our bills; and even more pleased with having the opportunity to make a positive impact on Iowa law regarding food insecure people residing in the state. Overall, I realized disappointments, redeeming moments, and most importantly, gained a lot of experience related to my study of Political Science.
My main disappointment was with the tangible end result of our bills. The work Cory and I did this session for hungry Iowans was not realized in the form of food bank legislation. In the end, none of the legislation we were advocating for had passed. The most disappointing aspect of this was the realization of just how murky politics can be. The fact that two of our bills passed nearly unanimously with bipartisan support out of their chamber of origin, but failed to even make it to the other chambers’ floor for a vote is extremely disappointing to me. It is indicative of an Iowa congress that, as a whole, may need to reevaluate their priorities for the next session.
It was not all bad. While our bills did not pass, there were members of Iowa’s congress that expressed a deep commitment to food banks in the state, as well as intangible success in experience gained for future advocating campaigns. I have no doubt that the work Cory and I did this session, coupled with the commitment that was expressed by a select group of lawmakers, will work in the IFBA’s favor in the coming sessions. Next year, we know now that getting bills through as early as possible greatly increases the chances of their passage. A more aggressive search for support from chamber leadership may also be necessary in the next session, especially if Republicans control one or both chambers. Even if they are not under Republican control, chamber leadership often controls the calendar, so meeting with that leadership may prove to be an important step in the process.
I am happy that I chose an internship with the IFBA over the others that I was offered. Not only is feeding people an easy cause to get behind, but I also do not believe that I would have received the amount of experience I gained in politics during this session anywhere else. I was given the opportunity to work at the Iowa Capitol as much or as little as I had time for, and was often left to make my own decisions based on my previous knowledge of the political system and legislative process. It was an experience that I am grateful for, and one I will not forget.
The nation’s mayors are increasingly turning to national service as a cost-effective strategy to address city challenges. By unleashing the power of citizens, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs have a positive and lasting impact – making our cities better places to live. To spotlight the impact of national service and thank those who serve, mayors across the country will participate in the second-annual Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service.
On this day, mayors will hold public events and use traditional and social media to highlight the value and impact of national service to the nation’s cities. Last year, 832 Mayors representing nearly 100 million citizens participated in the inaugural Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service. The initiative is being led by the Corporation for National and Community Service; Cities of Service; the National League of Cities; and Mesa, AZ, Mayor Scott Smith, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Why a Day of Recognition?
As solution-focused local elected officials, mayors have a unique role in this country. Mayors’ focus on engaging citizens and meeting local needs matches CNCS’s mission to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement. CNCS’s priority on expanding economic opportunity to create sustainable and resilient communities directly aligns with the goals of mayors. A coordinated day of recognition presents a unique opportunity to spotlight the key role that national service plays in solving local problems and challenges.
Participating in the day will highlight the impact of citizen service, show support for nonprofit and national service groups, and inspire more residents to serve in their communities.
What Happened Last Year?
On April 9, 2013, the first-ever Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service united Mayors across the country to spotlight the impact of national service and honor those who serve. Altogether, 832 Mayors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico officially recognized the work that AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers are doing to make cities better and stronger. Together, these Mayors represent nearly 100 million citizens, or nearly one-third of all Americans.
April 24th marked the Cedar Valley Volunteer Center’s Annual Mayor’s Luncheon, where Cedar Valley Volunteers were recognized for their service to various Cedar Valley non-profits, including the AmeriCorps members who are currently serving in the Cedar Valley. Please join the Iowa Food Bank Association in thanking the 10 VISTA’s serving in Iowa’s 8 Feeding America Food Banks!
For the past year, I have been an AmeriCorps VISTA at River Bend Foodbank in Davenport, IA. VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America and for one year you pledge to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty. During my year of service I did marketing and public relations for the Food Bank. I was in charge of our Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as updating our website. I also organized our photo library and kept it updated as new photos are taken, wrote stories and press releases, and assisted with grants and our newsletters.
Before I became an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I was very involved in hunger organizations. When my professor at my college made me aware of this opportunity, I immediately applied, knowing this was the perfect fit for me. During my first few weeks as a VISTA I helped with the Hunger Study. I had volunteered at a food pantry before, but going to all different kinds of pantries (large, small, client choice, etc.) really opened my eyes to hunger. People would willingly tell me their story. As I sat there, stunned and in disbelief of the obstacles these people face, I came to realize my struggles were minimal compared to the ones put in front of these individuals. Yes, life had not always treated me fair, but I never went without food, clothing, and shelter. I was blessed to never have to worry if I would get dinner one night or if we would be sleeping in our car.
I had many tasks as a VISTA, but I feel that my greatest accomplishment was increasing the Food Bank’s presence on social media (Facebook, Twitter). River Bend already had a Facebook and Twitter but were not very active on either account. I began posting 2 to 3 times a week when my year of service started and am now posting every day of the week (Monday-Friday). Our Facebook likes have increased by over 180 and our Twitter followers have increased by over 120. I have discovered what posts make our followers most engaged. This is also the part of the job that I love the most! I find it very enjoyable and I get to explore my creative side.
This past year has taught me many lessons, but the most important I learned was the meaning of brave. There are so many stigmas about people that use food pantries. The people I have met are in a very dark place in their lives and it pains them to ask for assistance. A brave person is someone who walks into a food pantry and asks for assistance or goes to a meal site. Asking for help can be scary and nerve-wracking and I look up to these individuals.
Many of you are probably wondering what a VISTA does after their year of service has ended. Some choose to go to graduate school, others decide to serve another year, and many look for employment. I won’t have to say goodbye to the River Bend Food Bank after my service year is over, because I will become the newly created Marketing Assistant. I am extremely lucky to be staying at the Food Bank and am thrilled to continue working on the fight against hunger!
Volunteering and living on a stipend for one year is the best thing I ever could have done immediately after receiving my Bachelor of Arts degree. I learned more than I ever dreamed of and met some incredible/inspiring people along the way.
River Bend Food Bank