Our county is currently facing a real hunger problem. Nearly 1 in 4 children in Story County continues to be eligible to receive free and reduced lunch at school. That is a staggering number for a county that has food assistance programs in every community and hunger doesn’t appear as an issue to many.
Bringing the community together to talk about real struggles many face is how United Way of Story County (UWSC) creates lasting impact. Whether it be education, income or financial stability, UWSC brings key partners to the table to leverage the effect we can have when we work together. One way UWSC is fighting back against hunger is through collaborative efforts like the Story County Hunger Collaboration and the Food Pantry Collaboration.
Over ten years ago, the Food Pantry Collaboration was formed as a way to coordinate efforts of the then 14 food pantries throughout the county. Now having 18 pantries countywide, the group has successfully streamlined processes and expanded the pantries’ resources with partnerships like the Food Bank of Iowa. The Hunger Collaboration, developed by UWSC in 2012, addresses the root causes of hunger to improve access to healthy food in Story County. Through these dynamic groups of community members, solutions are identified and needs are being met in Story County.
“We have made strides in covering the meal gap in our county and lowering the number of missed meals, but hunger continues to grow.” states Jean Kresse, president and CEO of UWSC. “We have extended Feeding America’s BackPack program into nine schools, which provides students with limited resources a sack of healthy food options for the weekend, helped support six meal sites for children during the summer months, and expanded the partnership of all of our food pantries through the Food Pantry collaboration.”
“We can do more and we need to do more. One easy way is for the community to help stock our food pantries for the summer months. Children are home for summer break and families don’t have access to school-provided meals. Our LIVE UNITED Food Drive is positioned to help these pantries stock up for the busy months ahead.”
“Last year, we were able to donate over 14,000 pounds of food and more than $5,000 to our local food pantries.” says Kresse. “This year we need to surpass that amount and we are asking the community to give generously to our pantries.”
Not only is the LIVE UNITED Food Drive collecting food items, but the pantries are also in need of personal products, such as deodorant, soap, toothpaste, paper towels, etc.
“If you’re already struggling to make ends meet, it’s not just food assistance that you need.” Kresse comments. ”Resources like SNAP benefits can be a helping hand to someone in need of food and nutrition, but other personal products aren’t covered.”
When talking about creating solutions to end hunger, food pantries are a great place to start. Pantries in Story County can purchase a wide variety of food from the Food Bank of Iowa at 14¢ a pound. According to the USDA, one average meal is 1.2 pounds, so every dollar donated turns into roughly five meals for local residents. Giving back through the LIVE UNITED Food Drive is a simple, easy way to make real change. Let’s come together as a community to make sure that no person in our county misses another meal.
The LIVE UNITED Food Drive will run from April 23 through May 3 this year. Check out www.ustory.org/fooddrive or the United Way of Story County Facebook page for drop-off locations, pantry wish lists and drive updates!
Allie Prusa is the marketing director for United Way Story County.