Innovation and Collaboration: A Food Insecurity Taskforce in Waverly
Last week, over 30 leaders in the fight against hunger gathered at Waverly City Hall to begin a coordinated effort to eliminate food insecurity in Waverly. This initial gathering emphasized networking and identifying community assets that could be leveraged to end hunger in Waverly. The next step will be the formation of a smaller taskforce of approximately 8 – 10 leaders to research and recommend specific projects and areas for collaboration.
While the taskforce is being formed, Waverly’s hunger fighters have already benefited by finding out what everyone else does and identifying areas where collaboration can improve service delivery. For example, the Saints Café ecumenical soup kitchen was introduced to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, where they can partner to purchase food at low cost; and child-care advocates and disability service providers received up-to-date information on the scope of childhood hunger from the Waverly Community School District.
The idea for the food insecurity gathering and taskforce began during conversations between the ELCA and the City of Waverly about how to expand the impact of the Waverly Sharing Gardens, in which residents grow and donate produce to area food pantries and soup kitchens. Organizers recommendations for other communities seeking to build a taskforce include:
- Secure City Support: If possible, secure support from the city government early in the process. City support lends legitimacy to the process and the process benefits from the experience that city staff have in facilitating discussions about community issues. Early in the process, the verbal and moral support of city leaders is much more important than financial support. In larger cities, it is valuable to approach housing or social services staff early on, as their daily work sensitizes them to the importance of ending hunger.
- Be Citizen-Led: The process should be led by active citizens who have both passion and experience fighting hunger. Food banks and pantries, schools and institutions of higher education, faith-based organizations, local government, and social service providers should all be represented. Waverly’s process centers on an emerging partnership between area churches, the school district, the city government, and food pantries.
- Be Inclusive: While a taskforce is necessarily limited in size, networking and fact-finding gatherings should be as inclusive as possible. The City of Waverly identified and invited 20 leaders from faith communities, the school district, homeless and housing services, and emergency food providers. These leaders reached out through their networks to invite additional leaders that the City was not previously aware of.
For more information about the Wavery Food Insecurity Taskforce, contact Mr. Tab Ray at 319-352-6263 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Waverly Community Sharing Gardens