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Iowa City Senior Center opens 'Little Free Pantry' exchange to help ease hunger in community

Daniela Bularzik, a senior at the University of Iowa and practicum student at the Iowa City Senior Center, adds items to the Simple and Free: Pantry Exchange food pantry, which is open to everyone in the community, on the ground level of the Iowa City Senior Center in Iowa City on Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2019. The Center is currently accepting non-perishable food items and toiletries to stock the pantry shelves. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Daniela Bularzik, a senior at the University of Iowa and practicum student at the Iowa City Senior Center, adds items to the Simple and Free: Pantry Exchange food pantry, which is open to everyone in the community, on the ground level of the Iowa City Senior Center in Iowa City on Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2019. The Center is currently accepting non-perishable food items and toiletries to stock the pantry shelves. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Senior Center brough a “Little Free Pantry” to downtown.

The center’s pantry, a five-shelf cabinet just inside the Washington Street doors called Simple and Free: Pantry Exchange, is a bit bigger than traditional Little Free Pantries but operates the same way. Center-goers or the public can use or drop off any donations of from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday at 28 S. Linn St.

“It ended up being really helpful when we went through such deep cold,” said LaTasha DeLoach, Senior Center coordinator, noting that there were days when Meals on Wheels couldn’t deliver because of weather. “Being able for people to pop in and get a can of soup, that worked out great because we put a microwave down there, have bowls down there.”

A Little Free Pantry is often a cabinet or place where community members take or drop off non-perishable foods or personal items in an effort to help ease some food insecurity. The center celebrated its new pantry with a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month.

Seniors can be at a higher risk of food insecurity because they often lived on fixed incomes or can have mobility challenges. DeLoach said seniors might also need things like denture cleanser that other pantries might not provide.

“You plan for retirement and maybe you didn’t plan enough money or maybe you had a medical situation that came up that ended up being more costly than you anticipated. Sometimes, money runs out at the end of the month,” DeLoach said. “There’s so many reasons that regardless of being a senior or not, we all could use that helping hand.”

Items most needed at the pantry are canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter and jelly, heart-healthy soups, pasta, rice, and personal care items. Snacks such as sparkling water and cereal also are popular, DeLoach said.

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Small foods like individual peanut butter packs or small bags of nuts can come in handy, too — they might not be a meal but can help increase blood sugar.

Additionally, center staff are also looking for groups to sponsor the pantry once a month. Interested groups can contact DeLoach at the Senior Center at 319-356-5220.

“It’s been going pretty successfully,” DeLoach said. “It’s just the little small things that we can do to put out more into the community that we’re part of. We are essential to the downtown area, and however we can be of service, then we want to do that.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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