IOWA CITY — The Crisis Center of Johnson County has about a week left of its Thanksgiving in July program to combat the summer slump at its food pantry.
So far Thanksgiving in July, a fundraiser and food drive at area grocery stores and Hills Bank locations, has received more than 1,500 pounds of food to help Johnson County residents who are food insecure. Sara Sedlacek, communications and development director for the crisis center, said that while the amount has surpassed expectations, the food pantry will always accept more donations.
“We can always use more because it does keep our food bank stocked beyond just the summer,” Sedlacek said.
The Thanksgiving in July program is also meant to raise community awareness about food insecurity as well as to supplement increased demand for food pantry services in the summer. Sedlacek said when students are out of school, they often need extra meals because they’re not receiving free or reduced lunches each day.
“So this is a really great way for us to talk about hunger in this community,” Sedlacek said. “During the summer it’s always a little bit harder to keep people’s heads in the game about food drives and the fact that we still have this need.”
Sedlacek credits much of the donated food to the four Rotary Club chapters of Iowa City. Deb Dunkhase, who is a chapter president, said the chapters wanted to work together to increase access to food to improve the community’s health and nutrition.
Dunkhase said the club set a goal of raising 10,000 pounds of food and plans to calculate its donations at the end of July. To encourage donations, the clubs are engaged in a “food fight” competition to see which chapter can donate the most food per member, even creating a golden turkey trophy for the winner.
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“It helps when you’re having a competition,” Dunkhase said. “Our goal, this is the first year, is that this will be an annual Rotary Club project in Johnson County.”
Sedlacek said that if community members want to participate in the final week of Thanksgiving in July, they can drop off food at any area grocery store or Hills Bank location. She said food donations always increase the variety of food in the pantry and gets people engaged in the issue of food insecurity.
She said, however, a financial donation is usually more beneficial because the Crisis Center can purchase four pounds of food with every dollar donated, which the average person cannot do at the grocery store.
Sedlacek said financial donations can be made by mail to 1121 Gilbert Court, or people can drop them at the food pantry and get a tour of the facility.