Overnight, COVID-19 uprooted the fabric of our economy and altered many aspects of how we go about our daily life. We have been forced to change the way we shop, greet friends, and work. Iowans have lost jobs, students are displaced, and seniors remain fearful. And for many, rent is due, medical bills need to be paid and cupboards are empty.

With your help, Food Bank of Iowa has been able to respond quickly to help those in need.

One way of helping is called a Mobile Pantry. A Mobile Pantry serves clients in areas of high food insecurity, where existing boots-on-theground human services organizations are unable to meet the demand completely. During a Mobile Pantry, food from a Food Bank of Iowa distribution center is trucked into a community and loaded into clients’ vehicles in pre-packed boxes, often directly from the back of a Food Bank of Iowa truck.

In March, April, and May, Food Bank of Iowa distributed 711,602 pounds of food via 107 Mobile Pantry distributions. We hosted Mobile Pantries in communities across our service area — all the way from Storm Lake, to Eagle Grove, to Perry, to Keokuk.

The largest Mobile Pantry distributions ever conducted by Food Bank of Iowa took place in April and May when we handed food to neighbors in need in Des Moines and Ottumwa.

In Des Moines, Food Bank of Iowa employees and National Guard soldiers loaded nearly 55,000 pounds of protein-rich food, into 1,900 vehicles (and a few bicycles) to help 5,300 individuals with their next meals. In Ottumwa, Food Bank of Iowa employees and volunteers loaded out more than 28,000 pounds of food, serving over 3,000 individuals.

These will forever be historic days for Food Bank of Iowa.

“These unique and necessary day-long distribution efforts required precision planning and marshaled every resource at our disposal, including passionate staff, dedicated volunteers and board directors, and caring community law enforcement,” Michelle Book, president and CEO, said. “I’m grateful for the Iowa National Guard, Grand View University in Des Moines and Quincy Place Mall in Ottumwa which made it possible to help these folks in need.”

Over the last few months, many of our Mobile Pantries have included high-quality foods donated by corporate partners, for whom we are very grateful. Casey’s General Store donated deli meat and eggs. Michael Foods provided frozen potatoes. Smithfield Foods added pork. Tyson Foods supplied chicken fritters. Versova contributed eggs. In addition to consistent retail store food donations, our good friends at Walmart provided massive quantities of industrial food-safe sanitizer which allowed us to stay open to fill these Mobile Pantry orders.

“Because of my health problems, I can’t go in the grocery store and buy food,” said a Food Bank of Iowa client at the Mobile Pantry in Ottumwa. “Being able to attend the drive-thru mobile pantry has been a big help since I can stay in my car.”