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Iowa Profile: John Boller, working to feed Johnson County

'There are probably around 3,000 people in Coralville experiencing hunger'

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CORALVILLE — John Boller says food is his passion.

While part of that passion is cooking and sharing food with those he knows, Boller said he wants to share food with the community.

“I just really enjoy food, I enjoy cooking food, I enjoy eating food, I enjoy sharing food with friends and family and I especially enjoy participating in the local food system,” Boller said. “I want more than anything for our local food system to be more inclusive.”

Boller, with Grow: Johnson County and executive director of Coralville Community Food Pantry, has been trying to achieve that through two food insecurity programs.

Earlier this year, the Coralville pantry relocated into the city’s old post office building at 420 10th Ave.

Boller said the new location has offered not only more space, but also seems to be expanding the pantry’s impact.

The pantry served about 2,500 total individuals — close to 900 households — in the last 12 months, Boller said.

The number is growing, he added.

“I know, just anecdotally speaking, we’re seeing a dramatic increase,” he said. “I think more people are able to access our new facility.”

But Boller said he won’t be satisfied until everyone is fed.

“The thing we’ve known the past three or four years is there are probably around 3,000 people in Coralville experiencing hunger. We haven’t reached everybody, but we hope this is one step closer to reaching everybody.”

With the pantry on a three-year lease with the city and the parcel of land planned for eventual development, Boller said he’s keeping an eye on future options with hopes of staying near the center of the community.

“We’re getting comfortable there, but at the same time we’re looking ahead,” he said.

With Grow: Johnson County, Boller and other volunteers provide educational opportunities on gardening, while also harvesting produce to combat food insecurity in the county.

The program harvested its first crops this year, which have been distributed to local pantries through the food distribution network provided by Table to Table.

As with the pantry, Boller is looking to expand on those being served.

“Next year we’re hoping we can build better connections with some of the smaller and rural pantries,” he said.

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