Food Bank of Iowa board addresses concern
Today, an increasing number of Iowans face food insecurity. Many are newly food insecure which is overwhelming and frightening. Food Bank of Iowa is committed to working with community-based partners to serve our neighbors.
Food banking is complex. It is a large, well-orchestrated effort to ensure Iowans in need receive nutritious food. Food Bank of Iowa delivers about 2 million pounds of food to 700 organizations across 55 Iowa counties every single month. Our trusted partners provide food and hope to 150,000 Iowans, one-third of whom are children.
Our one purpose is to alleviate hunger in Iowa.
With rising need and fewer resources, Food Bank of Iowa developed a plan to ensure fair and equitable access to food. We asked pantry partners to provide one, three-day supply of food each month to food insecure Iowans. We relied upon recently reported data in making our decision and were confident that by working together, the Food Bank of Iowa network could meet the growing need.
According to the DMARC 2022 Profile of a Pantry Partner:
- More than half of all pantry visitors use a food pantry just once or twice a year.
- The average food pantry visitor uses a food pantry 3.6 times in a year.
- Only 4% of those who used a food pantry did so for all 12 months of the fiscal year.
On Sept. 2, Food Bank of Iowa sent a contract amendment to 300 pantry directors outlining our request to provide a three-day supply of food to clients monthly. Setting minimum service standards is a best practice within the Feeding America network and this decision is supported by Feeding America. Due to the urgency of the food insecurity problem, we set a 30-day deadline.
The good news is that 290 pantry directors agreed to this new request and responded with gratitude. Sadly, 10 pantries, all of which also receive food from the DMARC food bank, voluntarily ended their relationship with Food Bank of Iowa on Nov. 2 following good faith efforts to address their concerns. However, four pantries affiliated with DMARC — some of the largest in the state — elected to continue their relationship with Food Bank of Iowa.
While we were surprised and perplexed by the decision to discontinue partnership, Food Bank of Iowa had immediate opportunities to bolster existing partners and welcome new pantries. In the past couple of months Food Bank of Iowa established 12 new Des Moines Public School pantries and will soon sign two new metro pantry agreements.
Food Bank of Iowa serves Polk County, West Des Moines
In Polk County, Food Bank of Iowa stocks the shelves of 199 organizations (including 100 community and school pantries) who support our community members facing food insecurity. Over the last five years, Food Bank of Iowa has invested $44 million in food value and programming support to help Polk County residents struggling to make ends meet. We owe it to the people we serve to carefully place every pound of food to ensure it does the most possible good.
In West Des Moines, Food Bank of Iowa provides eight elementary schools with weekend BackPack food to ensure 500 kids don’t go hungry over the weekend. We provide all the resources necessary for four pantries placed within West Des Moines schools to serve entire households. In addition, we provide food for three community pantries and one mobile pantry in West Des Moines. We are adding a new feeding site and food pantry early in 2023.
Return on investment
Food Bank of Iowa provides an excellent return on investment. 96.2 cents of every dollar go toward programming. Thanks to bulk purchasing power, extensive Feeding America relationships, and our network of collaborative partners, we can feed one neighbor for a week for $10. Food Bank of Iowa effectively leverages scale and stretches precious resources to get more Iowans the help they desperately need.
Michelle Book courageously assumed the helm of a struggling Feeding America food bank in February 2016. The previous June, Feeding America had given Food Bank of Iowa 24 months to equitably serve all 55 counties after years earlier identifying significant issues which had not been remedied. When Michelle arrived, she had 12 months to turn the operation around. Since then, Michelle has made many difficult decisions for the benefit of Iowans who rely upon Food Bank of Iowa for life-sustaining nutrition. She is a strategic and visionary leader who values collaboration. She and her incredible team of hunger fighters have our unwavering support.
As a Food Bank of Iowa director, I embrace the mission, vision and values of this organization. I am proud of all we have accomplished together. The decision to require a minimum three-day supply of food monthly is reasonable and is fully supported by the board of directors. We do not understand why anyone would work against more equitable access to food. Our focus is to feed the hungry and that is where we will place our energy.
Miriam De Dios Woodward