Access to food is critical for children, as studies show inadequate nutrition makes it more difficult for students to perform academically. That’s why Food Bank of Iowa is announcing a shift in distribution for families served by Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) pantries. Previously, pantries were embedded in schools. To meet increased need and offer safe pick up for families during the COVID-19 pandemic, Food Bank of Iowa is moving pantries offsite and offering drive-thru food distribution.
Long before COVID-19 reached the state, food insecurity was a problem for Iowa children. In 2019, one in six was food insecure. Today, Feeding America reports food insecurity is double compared to earlier this year, and triple for households with children.
This is especially concerning when taken in the context of how hunger impacts children. According to a report from Feeding America, childhood hunger can result in lower test scores, lower reading levels and increased behavior issues—among other concerns. A lack of adequate nutrition in childhood seriously impacts future health, education and potential—not only for Iowa children, but the potential of their communities and the state as a whole.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, DMPS reported 24,425 district students enrolled in the USDA free and reduced meal program. Prior to COVID, Feeding America reported 20% of free and reduced eligible children are without adequate food at home. With the escalation in food insecurity, we estimate more than 5,000 DMPS students need family food assistance now.
Food Bank of Iowa has built capacity and stocked pantries in district schools since 2015. Due to an uncertain school environment and to serve all children equitably across the entire school district, Food Bank of Iowa is transitioning from pantries embedded within nineteen Des Moines schools to school pantries located offsite. These offsite locations will host regular weekly drive-through food distributions, serving all DMPS families regardless of the school their children attend.
Food will be provided via convenient, no contact, parking lot drive-thru distributions. Parents may come as often as they need and will not have to provide an ID. It will not be necessary for parents to make an appointment. Distribution locations and times for food pickups will be texted to each family by DMPS within the next two weeks. The information is also available on the Food Bank of Iowa website, under ‘Get Help’ tab.
“Food is an issue of equity,” said Michelle Book, CEO of Food Bank of Iowa. “With so many DMPS families struggling, Food Bank of Iowa simply had to double down on our investment in Iowa’s future.”
About Food Bank of Iowa
Food Bank of Iowa exists to make certain Iowans do not go hungry when times are tough.
Food Bank of Iowa sources food, a majority of which is free and reduced-cost, for Iowans in need by leveraging bulk purchasing power, key retail food rescue relationships, and USDA commodity food, The food bank keeps the food safe and delivers it to 630 partners—including community, church and school pantries, backpack schools, after-school programs, senior meal sites, veterans agencies, homeless shelters and rehab sites—who then distribute food to children, seniors, veterans and hard-working Iowans. Food Bank of Iowa serves 55 counties, covering big cities and small towns across 30,000 square miles.