Author Archives: ifbaadmin

Iowa’s Food Pantries Have a Crucial Need for More Milk

Governor Terry Branstad is joining local milk companies and dairy farmers to bring attention to nutrition and hunger relief efforts in support of the Great American Milk Drive, the first ever national program to deliver highly desired and nutrient rich gallons of milk to hungry families who need it most.

Event attendees had the opportunity to sample milk from local milk companies AE Dairy and Highland Dairy and learn how to get involved as Gov. Branstad and dairy industry representatives discuss the Healthiest State Initiative and the Great American Milk Drive, proclaiming June as “Dairy Month” in Iowa.

Hunger impacts 1 in 8 Iowans and 12.5 million families nationwide. These families do not have access to adequate nourishment to help them reach their full potential. Hunger has no boundaries and is problem that exists in urban, suburban and rural communities.

According to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, milk is one of the items most requested by food bank clients, yet there is a nationwide shortage because it is rarely donated. That can change with Iowa’s support of the Great American Milk Drive!

Yesterday, Cory Berkenes, Director of the Iowa Food Bank Association had the opportunity to meet with the public and Gov. Branstad. He was also available for media interviews on how the Great American Milk Drive can impact Iowa’s eight Feeding America Food Banks. Many of Iowa’s food bank directors, including Barbara Prather and Sunni Keigebien of the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, were also in attendance.

It’s been a challenge for Iowa’s food banks to meet the demand for milk due to the lack of donations- canned goods and other non-perishable grocery items are more likely to be donated. Now, it’s easier for Iowa’s residents to lend a hand and contribute nutritious milk to food insecure families!

With the simple click of a mouse, ( or text message (text “milk” to 80088), it is now possible to buy much needed milk and donate it for as little as $5.00 to family who does not have regular access to milk. By entering your zip code online, you can ensure that the milk is delivered for you to a local Feeding America food bank in your own community.

The Great American Milk Drive is made possible by the nation’s dairy farmers and milk companies. The goal of the campaign is to deliver two million gallons of milk to food banks across the country, and Iowa residents can help meet that goal!

Donations for milk can also be made locally by going to



Iowa Kids Struggle to Get Enough to Eat This Summer


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

Agency Spotlight: North Liberty Pantry

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.


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.



Legislative Re-cap: A Note from IFBA’s State Director

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?

-Cory Berkenes

IFBA Intern Brian Huniker looks back on his experiences at the Iowa State Capitol

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.

-Brian Huniker

Mayor’s Day Of Recognition

Mayoral Luncheon

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!

Expanding on SNAP Outreach

Tax season offers yet another opportunity to expand SNAP Outreach beyond our usual Feeding sites and senior centers to connect with a different audience. Whether it is at a VITA site for low-income households, or an AARP sponsored tax-aide site, we can visit with a wide range of individuals who can use our assistance and/or share our message. In Urbandale, we are partnering with AARP in a pilot project being tested in three states this year. IFBA staff and volunteers are on-site two hours per day, four days a week. We provide each tax client with our information, assessing their need, and asking them to spread the word about SNAP to their relatives, neighbors, friends, church and wherever there might be a need. We have found that word of mouth referrals are among the best methods to reach the most who request our assistance. We hope this pilot will be replicated throughout the U.S. next year as we demonstrate the value of this community partnership.

-Cindy Jones, SNAP Outreach Coordinator

A Glimpse of the Heart of a Food Pantry…..

Sue Swartz, the pantry director at Christ United Methodist Church at 3801 7th St., East Moline, IL, has a huge heart for helping others. The food pantry is open Monday through Friday from 9a.m. to 12p.m. and serves approximately 300 individuals every month in the East Moline/Silvis area. The pantry prepackages the food with the help of their 2 volunteers each day (1 desk attendant and 1sack room attendant). The amount of food they give out is an emergency one week supply and the clients can come every 30 days. The food pantry has been in operation for 40 years.
Without the River Bend Foodbank, Sue said the pantry couldn’t run. “I just couldn’t imagine not having the River Bend Foodbank. They are a great group. They see a lot of me and they are always willing to help,” she stated. The Christ United Methodist food pantry receives food from the River Bend Foodbank every week, where they receive 95% of their supply.
The one thing that Sue would love to be able to do all of the time at the food pantry is to be a greeter. She loves interacting with the clients that come in and makes them feel comfortable and loved. She wants to help them, but she also wants them to be productive members of society. Sue pushes the clients to be their very best and especially loves their hugs! When Sue first took over as pantry director, her priority was that all clients were treated with dignity. Sue has changed the volunteer’s views and now they have a true heart for the people.
The church congregation is very supportive of the food pantry. The women of the church knit/crochet scarves and blankets for the clients when the weather turns cold. A couple celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary is asking for canned goods instead of gifts to be donated to the food pantry.
Sue says that the biggest challenge the food pantry faces is “having ample amount of food.” She would love to be able to give more and never run out of cereal! The Christ United Methodist Church food pantry is filled with loving individuals that make you feel at home the moment you step in the door, which makes for a wonderful experience.
By Jennifer Schroder
River Bend Foodbank AmeriCorps VISTA

From the Director…….

2014 Legislative Session Update

To some, another year means just another legislative session. For us, another year means another opportunity to create policy to positively affect those that struggle with hunger.

Last year, we – along with food banks, food pantries and advocates from around the state – successfully secured $1 million for additional food purchases. This program has enjoyed success. As of January 28th, food banks have been able to purchase food amounting to an additional 922,031 additional meals. The food purchased with these funds has already been made available to 545 agencies in 66 Iowa counties. The expected impact of this program will be the purchase of enough food for an additional 4.5 million meals to be distributed in all 99 Iowa counties.

This year, food banks are advocating for new legislation:
• Sales Tax Exemption – exempting the eight Feeding America food banks from sales tax would free up approximately $80,000 – $100,000 for additional food purchases and programming. The benefits of this savings could be passed on directly to food pantries and food insecure Iowans.
• Income Tax Check-off – A successful push for this bill would place the food banks on the income tax forms allowing Iowans to direct a dollar or two to assist in the fight against hunger.

Currently, our two bills are still waiting to be introduced in committee. We have a shell bill with a collection of food security legislation originating in the House. The Co-sponsors of this bill are Rep. Dawn Pettengill, Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, Rep. Art Staed, Rep. Dan Kelley, and Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt. IFBA has already requested hunger-relief advocates from targeted counties to call their representatives in support of this effort.

Senator Bill Dotzler has taken sponsorship of a sales-tax bill originating in the Senate. We are working closely with Senator Dotzler to make sure this legislation progresses.

Because of the consolidated session time-table, it will be extremely important that you, hunger-relief advocates, food pantries, and leaders in the state rise up and speak in favor of new policy. We don’t want to miss this opportunity. Stay tuned to the Iowa Food Bank Association through April to get the latest updates from the capitol. We will request emails and calls to the statehouse at a few of the key moments this session. Please know, however, it is never too early to call your legislator and tell them that ensuring all Iowans have access to food should be a priority. Together, we can leverage the change needed to address hunger. Together, we can make a difference.
-Cory Berkenes