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Food insecurity in Iowa is being compounded by COVID

DES MOINES — The pandemic has put extreme pressure on Iowa’s food pantries and soup kitchens and there’s no sign of it letting up as families continue to struggle.

Michelle Book, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Iowa, says a COVID-19 vaccination won’t cure poverty in Iowa.

“Before COVID, food insecurity was hovering right around 10%. COVID struck, and immediately, the demand doubled,” Book says. “We have seen things leveling off but still higher than pre-recession levels.”

In the past month, Barilla donated more than eight truckloads of pasta to the Food Bank, the equivalent of 166,000 plates of pasta. Even with that generous donation, Book says there’s a constant demand for more food and more funds.

“One in six Iowans and 20-percent of our kids, one in five Iowa children, suffers from food insecurity,” Book says. “We don’t expect those levels to decrease to pre-COVID levels for the next year or two.”

The Food Bank of Iowa rescues safe, edible food which would otherwise clog landfills and gets it quickly to food insecure Iowans through an established network of 650 smaller frontline, hands-on partners. Still, she says, the need is persistent, especially with the pandemic continuing to loom.

“Folks that were already struggling with poverty or were hovering right there on the precipice of not being able to make ends meet,” Book says, “those folks are going to have a tough time for months and perhaps years to come.”

Across Iowa’s 99 counties, 324 grants totaling more than three-point-four million dollars were awarded to Feeding America partner pantries and feeding sites.

The money is being used to mitigate additional costs to front-line food assistance providers who stepped up to respond to unusually high demand during COVID.

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