116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Everyone looks forward to the sun and fun that summer brings, but for families that struggle with food insecurity, summer also can bring added stress. Summer also can be challenging for local food banks as donations slow and the need for services rise.
“Summer can be a really challenging time when children are at home and, for some families, it's even harder to meet the grocery needs in the house, and they need to rely on food pantries even more,” said CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Pantry Executive Director Sarah Nelson.
“Typically the high season for donations is around the holidays — that’s when people tend to think about donations and where to give,” she added. “So having a summer food drive can be of particular importance to make sure that we're well stocked that we're able to meet the needs of the families that we're serving.”
Spanning the months of July and August, The Strike Out Hunger Food Drive aims to keep the food pantry stocked with groceries and other necessities Johnson County families might need to help make ends meet.
One in four families in the United States is on the verge of food insecurity, according to a 2020 report by Feeding America. And in Johnson County, an estimated 3,500 children are food insecure.
Most children within this group rely on free breakfast and lunch from their schools as their primary meals during the school year. When school is out for the summer, those same children are less likely to receive complete meals.
That’s where CommUnity comes in.
“In June, we served 3,110 households, which was an increase of 474 households over May, which illustrates what we can see in the summer,” Nelson said. “And that’s in addition to the 1,400 children the food pantry already serves.”
Additionally, from June to August, at least 200 children and their families will visit CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank’s Food Pantry for the very first time.
Nelson said she expects to see the number of first-time clients accessing the food bank to continue to increase.
“Demand is definitely increasing,” she said. “You know, it’s so hard to tell if that increase is due to the (COVID-19) pandemic, but we do know that families are still experiencing economic fallout as a result the pandemic. That's a reality. What we do know is that families of all sizes and means are struggling to make ends meet and demand for our services continues to climb. And that’s what makes drives like this so important for us.”
There are no income requirements to receive help from the food pantry other than being a Johnson County resident, Nelson said.
“We don’t require any documentation or proof of need,” Nelson said. “We want the process to be as easy and welcoming as possible. And that's something that I'm extremely proud of, because you know it takes a lot of courage to access a food pantry. It's generally not something that people are super comfortable doing, so we try to keep the barriers pretty low because we don’t want to deter anyone from accessing healthy food.”
There are several options available for people to donate, Nelson said. Food donations can be taken to the Pepperwood Plaza Food Pantry at 1045 Highway 6 East in Iowa City or donors can make a financial gift through the food pantry’s website at https://builtbycommunity.org/donations/.
Additionally, if local businesses are interested in organizing their own food drives with their employees, or in putting a donation box in an area where their clients can access it, Nelson said CommUnity often can help if they need barrels or collection bins.
“We can also arrange to pick up the donations if they don’t have the means to drop the donations off at the pantry,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the pantry serves about 2,500 to 3,000 households per month, and even what seems like a small donation can have a big impact.
“A donation of $100 can feed one child lunch all summer long,” she said. “And a donation of $75 feeds a single parent and a child for two months. So, there are many different ways that someone’s gift can have an impact. And, we're really fortunate that community responds very well to our requests for assistance when it comes to food drives and donating money to the food bank.”
The Strike Out Hunger Food Drive is going on now through the end of August, but donations can be made year-round.
Those wondering what to give can refer to the food bank’s list of Top 10 needs:
1. Financial donations
2. Canned fruit in juice
3. Peanut butter
4. Canned meat
5. Baby diapers
6. Baby formula
7. Rice and pasta
8. Hearty soups and stews
9. Toilet paper
10. Laundry detergent
For more information on how to give or what to donate, visit the CommUnity donation page at: https://builtbycommunity.org/donations/.
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