Community

CommUnity opens second Iowa City food pantry

Steve Schuette of Iowa City stacks canned goods at the new CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank in Iowa City on Monda
Steve Schuette of Iowa City stacks canned goods at the new CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank in Iowa City on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The new location opened Monday, Nov. 9. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — COVID-19 hasn’t increased the number of clients CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank has served at the food bank this year, but it has affected how those clients are served.

“When COVID hit ..., we had to pivot fairly quickly and figure out how we were going to serve our community,” said Becci Reedus, CommUnity’s executive director. “Food pickup and delivery were the things we could do initially to keep everybody safe.”

But food pickup creates waste, Reedus said. About half of all prepacked food doesn’t get used by clients, either because of dietary limitations or just food preferences, she said.

With that in mind, as well as concerns over a looming Iowa winter that would force clients to wait outside before picking up their food due to social-distancing guidelines, CommUnity’s board of directors decided a second food bank was the best course of action.

That new food bank — located in Pepperwood Plaza in the South District of Iowa City — opened to clients on Monday. The space, next to Parkview Church, is 11,000 square feet.

“Everything is bigger,” Reedus said. “Super-sized.”

The larger facility allows CommUnity to bring more clients indoors so they don’t have to wait outside when the weather turns cold. Social-distancing measures also are in place inside.

“And most importantly, they’ll be able to shop for their food again,” Reedus said.

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Clients will be able to grab a cart and pick up items as if they were at a grocery store. The food bank features bread, pasta, meat, dairy, fresh produce and canned goods, among other items.

Once clients are finished shopping, they’ll weigh their carts and then bag their own items at the facility’s bagging table.

“I think we’ve done everything possible to put best practices and precautions in there,” Reedus said. “It’s self-serving the entire way.”

CommUnity estimates there are 20,000 to 22,000 food insecure individuals in Johnson County. Reedus said they actually have been serving fewer clients this year with more agencies helping out those in needs.

The Iowa City Community School District also provided free lunches throughout much of the pandemic.

Reedus said they anticipate their numbers will rise once the pandemic is under control.

COVID-19 also has affected the number of volunteers CommUnity has available. Reedus estimated 50 percent to 60 percent of its volunteers has left.

“It’s been hard on staff,” she said. “It’s been hard on volunteers. We’ve had some turnover, quite a bit of turnover, actually.”

But Reedus said she expects volunteers to return and added the second pantry has enough staff and volunteers to operate.

While the original food bank at 1121 S. Gilbert Court will continue to offer prepacked bags of food and delivery service, Reedus expects most of the action to be at the new location.

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“Personally, I feel our clients are going to want to come here and pick up food,” she said.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

Food Bank Hours of Operation

• Monday, noon to 4:30 p.m.

• Tuesday, noon to 7 p.m.

• Wednesday, noon to 4:30 p.m.

• Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

• Friday, noon to 4:30 p.m.

• Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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