116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming, many of us will inevitably overeat at a meal or two. Leftovers are a particular attraction. But some of our neighbors rarely, if ever, have leftovers. Without food pantries in Linn and Johnson counties, they would have little to eat and not just during the holidays.
Our Iowa pride of caring for the “least of these” is well-founded. John Boller in Coralville and Kaila Rome in North Liberty make sure some hungry are fed. Those they help are not freeloaders, but hardworking poor. Rome says, “Most families we see are working either full-time, part-time or even at multiple jobs.” Others who depend on the pantries, are retired from middle class jobs, are housebound by age or health problems.
The Coralville Food Pantry, during the past 18 months, has made 4,830 home deliveries. Each delivery provides about 50 pounds of food. Over half of the families rely on the pantry for two or more meals a day. Boller, an ardent advocate in our area for dealing with hunger, and director of the Coralville Food Pantry, describes their obligation to the hungry with passion as he notes his pantry “has provided food to more than 10,000 people since 2009.” North Liberty’s pantry, opened in 1985, currently serves over 700 families each year.
The pantries make home deliveries to the infirm, those without easy transportation. In Coralville alone, the food bank buys 45,000 pounds of produce from local farmers. Income for our farmers means a reasonably balanced diet for many. Garden on-site, part of North Liberty Pantry, produces over 1,000 pounds of vegetables and fruit each growing season. That means nutritious and healthy food available to all their clients. It is calories and caring combined.
One recipient describes what the pantry means to her: “You have been so wonderful and caring. I can’t leave my home because I am too frail. You bring me so much wonderful food every week and I thank God for the food pantry every chance I get.”
Another older recipient wrote that he and his wife were raising their grandchildren and that “things are tight. I appreciate all you do to make sure we have enough food every week.”
A very special obligation the pantries feel is not in the home, but in the schools. Coralville, alone, delivered 25,000 lunches for youngsters who otherwise would not have had lunch as others did.
Feeding both young and old should not be a miracle. A minister has written: “We don’t truly understand how blessed we are in America. As Christians we are to feed the poor and help people who are in need. Feeding the needy is part of serving one another and as we serve others, we are serving Christ.” He noted that there are about two dozen passages about feeding the hungry in the Bible
The food banks are not sectarian, of course. They don’t have a worship test, but the minister implicitly challenges everyone to care about the hungry. Before we get to the leftovers, one way is to donate money to your local pantry. A good meal makes for a merry Christmas. And so does your good deed.
Norman Sherman of Coralville has worked extensively in politics, including as Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s press secretary, and authored a memoir “From Nowhere to Somewhere.”