116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Federal funds, farmers and food banks helped provide more than 38.4 million meals to nearly 460,000 Iowans who experienced food insecurity over the past 13 months of the coronavirus pandemic.
Through their combined efforts, “fewer Iowa families and children faced hunger, and our food banks and food pantry system has been improved and strengthened,” Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg said Wednesday about the impact of the Feeding Iowans Task Force.
Gov. Kim Reynolds established the task force in April 2020 to identify potential gaps in the state’s food system and connect resources to put food on Iowans’ tables. Headed by Gregg, it included members from charitable organizations and state executive branch agencies.
Food insecurity often goes unnoticed and is misunderstood, Reynolds said. Even under normal circumstances, hunger is a reality for one in nine Iowans, Reynolds said.
“The pandemic really put a spotlight on this issue last year when food insecurity among Iowans increased by a staggering 51 percent in the first three months alone,” she said.
The impact of COVID-19 food insecurity is not going away, according to Linda Gorkow, executive director of Iowa Food Banks Association, which hosted the governor at its Des Moines facility. In 2020, the association provided 60 million meals, which was nearly double the number in 2019.
“One unfortunate life situation or unexpected disaster could put most any of us in the need of food assistance,” she said.
Gregg agreed that the task force hasn’t "solved hunger in Iowa forever,“ but has helped build relationships and connections "to continue this conversation in other forums."
In March 2020, food stamp applications increased 168 percent, over 20,000 Iowans called the Area Agencies on Aging for help and a record number of calls was received by the state’s food assistance hotline, Reynolds said.
At the same time that the pandemic caused food supply chain disruptions — making less food available for donation and distribution to food banks — many Iowa families also were out of work and struggling to put food on the table, Reynolds said.
The task force “showed how Iowans are able to come together, collaborate, innovate and step up to help those in need all while creating a strategic blueprint to use in the future,” Reynolds said at a news conference where she was joined by task force members from the Iowa Food Bank Association and state departments of Homeland Security and Agriculture.
Among the highlights in the report:
- More than $12.3 million in COVID-19 relief funds supported the task force’s efforts to provide an estimated 38,413,675 meals to hungry Iowans.
- The Beef Up Iowa program provided 450,000 servings of beef, the Pass the Pork program provided 600,000 servings of pork, and the Turkey to Table program provided 700,000 servings of turkey.
- A bulk repurchasing and repackaging program provided over 1.3 million pounds of shelf-stable food items.
- The Double-Up Food Bucks program expanded to over 100 new locations across 76 counties, which helped 75,334 Iowans buy fresh produce.
- “Pack the Pantry” grants helped 102 food pantries expand their refrigeration capacity.
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