116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — 2020 was a challenging year for virtually everyone, but to those living with food insecurity, there were even more layers of difficulty to meet their basic needs.
On Friday, those who wish to help can experience for an hour what those families go through on a daily basis.
CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank will host its fifth annual Hunger Banquet virtually through an immersive experience in the realities of food insecurity in Johnson County. All proceeds of the fundraiser will benefit the food bank, which serves 900 households each week with supplemental grocery assistance.
“For folks truly experiencing food insecurity, regularly going to bed malnourished, the effect isn’t just an empty stomach and hunger pangs,” said Julia Winter, development manager for the food bank. “Hunger is really much more than that feeling of emptiness.”
Children who experience hunger or malnourishment are at higher risk for chronic disease later in life, mental health issues and issues of living day to day, like poor performance in school during key developmental periods in their lives. Food insecurity has been tied to heart disease, diabetes and cancer, Winter said.
And for children who watch parents sacrifice their own food so that they can eat, the trauma of watching other adults go hungry is lasting.
When: Friday. Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m.; the rest of the program starts at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Virtually, anywhere with an internet connection.
Details: To register, visit builtbycommunity.org/hungerbanquet2021. Registration is $50. All proceeds from this event are critical to the success of the Food Bank. The deadline to register is Wednesday, June 9 at 11:59 p.m.
The annual Hunger Banquet is the largest fundraiser for CommUnity, providing enough funding to support the food bank for nearly six months.
The event, happening live virtually, will include ice breakers and community trivia during the social hour.
For $50, the public can help CommUnity reach their fundraising goal of $55,000, which will stock their shelves for nearly six months. The Hunger Banquet is the food bank’s largest annual fundraiser.
“We’ve developed this virtual event to help educate the community on food insecurity in Johnson County, and to raise awareness and support for the Food Bank,” said Sarah Nelson, Executive Director of CommUnity. “Attendees will learn about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected food insecurity in Johnson County and beyond through an engaging virtual presentation featuring CommUnity clients and volunteers. And, like the in-person version of the Hunger Banquet, participants will be randomly assigned a financial demographic based on real income levels in Johnson County to determine the value of the meal that they receive.”
Participants will receive gift cards of varying amounts, based on their assigned financial demographic, to purchase a meal from a restaurant or delivery service of their choice. Some will receive enough to purchase an upscale dinner and some will receive enough to purchase a fast food meal. Others representing their neighbors who go to bed hungry will receive no meal at all.
With about 15 percent of Iowans experiencing food insecurity now, Winter said the rate has nearly doubled since before the pandemic. Eleven percent are children.
“That is an astronomically high number and it’s not something we’re thinking when we see people out and about,” she said.
Between the pandemic, the derecho, civil unrest and economic disaster, the food bank has been highly impacted.
“It can happen to anyone,” Winter said. “Most of our neighbors are just one paycheck away from being in crisis.”
Unlike some other assistance programs, CommUnity does not have income guidelines for service qualification. And for those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (formerly known as food stamps), food banks cover the many gaps in family needs for not only food, but essentials like toilet paper, diapers and hygiene products.
“We just want people to know there is help,” Winter said.
During the pandemic, CommUnity provided prepackaged bags of food for clients that often results in lower satisfaction and more food waste. Since opening their new space at Pepperwood Plaza, the organization has had more room to safely distance and gain better footing to serve the community.
A substantial need remains for volunteers both at their food bank and on their crisis phone line. CommUnity’s mobile pantry will go to 10 neighborhoods each month through the summer to counter accessibility issues with public transportation.
Comments: (319) 398-8340; firstname.lastname@example.org