Survey: One-third of Iowans have been food insecure at one point

Survey also showed Iowans willing to donate to food banks

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[Editor’s note: One in a series of stories on poverty, a topic that The Gazette considers a content priority for 2013.]

DES MOINES — More than one-third of all adult Iowans think hunger is a “very important issue” in the state, according to a survey released by the AARP Tuesday.

Additionally, about one-third report they or someone in their household have been food insecure at some point in their lives.

Food insecurity is defined as “a lack of access to food on a regular basis because of a lack of money or some other reason to buy food,” said Jennifer Sauer, a research adviser with the AARP who presented the report at Iowa Hunger Summit at the Des Moines Marriott Tuesday.

The summit is the first day of the World Food Prize events in Des Moines that take place this week. The prize is an international award given to individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

The award was envisioned by Noble Laureate Norman Borlaug, whose work with high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat helped expand production in Mexico, Pakistan and India and earned him the moniker “The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives.”

AARP Iowa State Director Kent Sovern said the survey also showed Iowans were willing to donate to food banks and close to 80 percent approve of the state’s $1 million underwriting of the Food Bank of Iowa.

Food Bank of Iowa support became flashpoint political question in 2012 when Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed a $500,000 state appropriation for food banks, saying voluntary contributions should pay for its operations.

In 2013, however, Branstad signed off on $1 million for food bank operations, including a commitment of private fundraising. Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht couldn’t comment 2014 state support for the food bank.

“We’re still putting together our budget and have not made any final funding decisions,” he said in an email.

In a panel discussion following the release of the report, Matt Russell, State Food Project coordinator, Drake University Agricultural Law Center, took the idea of donating to a food bank one step further.

“Have you advocated for public policy?” he asked the crowd of a few hundred who partially filled a Marriott Conference Room named after the Quad-Cities. “That in and of itself is as important as giving to a food bank.”

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