Local Government

Mobile Food Pantry closer to reality in Johnson County

Crisis Center would deliver to mobile home parks monthly

Volunteer John Vollenweider stocks a rack of bread at the Johnson County Crisis Center food pantry in Iowa City on Friday, June 24, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Volunteer John Vollenweider stocks a rack of bread at the Johnson County Crisis Center food pantry in Iowa City on Friday, June 24, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — A new mobile food pantry may soon be bringing food to residents at three Johnson County mobile home parks after the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday selected a proposal from the county’s Crisis Center to provide such a service.

Supervisors chose the crisis center’s proposal for a mobile food pantry over a plan from the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, which is based in Cedar Rapids. The board allocated $30,000 in funding for the service after the county’s Hunger Task Force report earlier this year revealed one in seven Johnson County residents experience food insecurity.

A vote to officially grant the money could come in the next month after a contract between the county and the Crisis Center is negotiated, supervisors said.

Crisis Center officials identified three mobile home parks in the county — Regency, Western Hills and Sunrise Village/Modern Manor — which the task force identified as “food deserts” that the mobile food pantry would visit monthly. People who live in food deserts need hunger relief but have transportation barriers in getting to food pantries, officials said.

Sarah Benson Witry, food bank and emergency assistance director for the Crisis Center, said a mobile food truck would serve about 300 families per month.

She said the center plans to use an Elder Services van, which is normally used for Meals on Wheels delivery, at a cost of $5,000 for one year. She said for about three weekdays each week the van and a driver is available for use so scheduling and sharing the vehicle should not be an issue.

The crisis center’s plan was selected following some debate. Mike Carberry, Janelle Rettig and Lisa Green-Douglass supported moving forward with the Crisis Center plan while Pat Harney and Rod Sullivan voted for the HACAP proposal.

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HACAP owns its own van, which it already uses for mobile pantry services in two other Iowa counties. Organization officials said they would plan out boxes of food for families rather than the shopping-style pantry the Crisis Center proposed.

Sullivan expressed concern over money going to pay employees of the crisis center or for the van, rather than it going to food.

Rettig said it would be beneficial to have a centralized source of food in the county — the Crisis Center — rather than introducing another organization into the county that also provides food.

Supervisors also said a grant to fund the Crisis Center’s mobile food pantry could be combined with a $12,000 grant proposed for the center to start a secondary elementary food pantry inside a Johnson County school.

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