Food for Thought Meetings Tackle Food Insecurity in North-Central Iowa
A Food for Thought meeting in Storm Lake on September 25th brought together over 50 participants to discuss food insecurity in Buena Vista, Sac and Calhoun counties. Organized by the Food Bank of Iowa, the dialogue included perspectives from government officials, university staff, students, church leaders, school administrators, and area food pantries. Discussion topics included healthy eating, the HUSH and BackPack programs of the Food Bank of Iowa, volunteer recruitment and retention, food rescue and transportation for people to gain access to healthy food.
- A major constraint to area food assistance programs is the difficulty in recruiting and retaining regular volunteers. Discussion participants suggested more targeted outreach to churches, church youth groups and schools.
- Food rescue efforts may need to be expanded. These efforts currently include a partnership between Community Basket Ida, The Bridge, Pizza Hut, and Sodexho. Meat food rescue operations such as Food for Life at a locker in Paullina are seen as particularly valuable.
- The Good Samaritan Act protects restaurants and others who donate food to food resuce in good faith from liability.
- The Farm to Food Donation Tax Credit supports farmers who donate food to food banks and pantries.
The Food Bank of Iowa is hosting additional Food for Thought meetings in Spencer on October 9, Sheldon on October 21, Estherville on October 29, and Humboldt on November 11. Contact Mr. Tyler Dillon for more information or to RSVP.
Donations from Ag Youth Benefit Iowa Food Pantries
At the recent Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, Monsanto partnered with Farm Progress and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to sponsor the sixth annual America’s Farmers Food Drive. The drive collected 6,847 pounds of food for food pantries in the Boone area.
FFA chapters and 4-H clubs from across the state were asked to join the cause, and 52 responded to the challenge. FFA and 4-H members who brought food received free entry to the show, and the FFA chapters and 4-H clubs who brought the most food, in pounds, were awarded $250 each.
The ag youth organizations with the most food donations who will receive a monetary donation are the Garner Hayfield FFA Chapter, the Newton FFA Chapter, the Humboldt FFA Chapter, and the Happy Homebodies 4-H Club.
For every pound of food collected at the America’s Farmers Food Drive, Monsanto committed to matching a $1 donation, up to $10,000, to the United Way of Story County. Despite the fact that the food drive collected less than 10,000 pounds of food, due to rainy weather and a shortened show, Monsanto donated the full $10,000. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation also committed to a matching donation of $6,847 to Feeding America.
Meal Packaging Takes Cresco Festival to New Heights
The 2014 Norman Borlaug Heritage Festival in Cresco, Iowa hit a high note this year with the addition of a meal-packaging session to the weekend’s activities. This annual festival is organized by the Cresco Chamber of Commerce and the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation, and combines a small-town, Iowa harvest fest with a celebration of the life and legacy of Cresco-area native Norman Borlaug. As part of the festival this year, over 50,000 meals were packaged for hungry people in Northeast Iowa and overseas. Organizers describe the addition of meal packaging to the festival as a “crescendo”, which built community spirit and helped area residents to become valued participants in the fight to end hunger.
As the kick-off to the Norman Borlaug Heritage Festival, over 300 fifth-grade students from eight area schools gathered on the Borlaug Family Farm for “Inspire Day” to learn about hunger, agriculture, and Norman Borlaug’s life and work. During Inspire Day, students packaged 6264 meals for the hungry from the Borlaug barn. On the last day of the festival, community members gathered at Cresco High School to package the remaining 43,746 meals. People in the community are eager to package again next year and planning for a repeat performance has already begun.
The Cresco CROP Hunger Walk was also held in conjunction with the festival. Walkers raised $5239 to fight hunger internationally through Church World Service’s programs and locally by supporting the local food pantry at Community Action. This year, the Cresco CROP Hunger Walk was organized in partnership with the Prairie Springs Recreational Trail 5K, which helped raise awareness and increase participation in both activities. Elderly and others preferring not to walk/run raised funds and participated in the event through a “CROP Hunger Rock” by sitting in rocking chairs near the route for the duration of the walk.
Based on their experiences adding meal-packaging to the Norman Borlaug Heritage Festival, organizers suggest that other communities:
- Reach out to Meals from the Heartland and Outreach, Inc., two organizations that specialize in helping organizations and communities package meals for the hungry. Meals from the Heartland and Outreach, Inc. have a wealth of information about how much money to raise to cover the cost of food, the size and type of venues needed for a packaging event, and walk event organizers through every step of the process.
- Involve schools, churches, and clubs in packaging and fundraising activities. Groups in Cresco raised $50,000 to help cover the cost of the meals by encouraging their members to donate money and register for a packaging shift during the festival.
- Make sure people know that some of the meals stay to help local families who are hungry. By keeping half of the meals in Northeast Iowa, organizers at the festival helped people feel that their efforts were more local and tangible. Community members will also know that their efforts are successful when they start seeing the meals they packaged on the shelves of their local food pantries.
- If possible, secure a matching donation from an area business or foundation. The Lynch Family Foundation agreed to match the $50,000 raised by Cresco community members, which made fundraising easier and doubled the amount of meals that could be packaged during the festival.
For more information about the Norman Borlaug Heritage Festival, contact Ms. Spiff Slifka. For more information about the Cresco CROP Hunger Walk, contact Ms. Vickie Grube. For more information about Meals from the Heartland, contact Mr. Dave Bradley. For more information about Outreach, Inc., contact Mr. Matt Hamilton.
Photo Credits: (top to bottom): Participants at a Food for Thought Meeting in Spencer, Students donating food at the Farm Progress Show, Fifth Graders packaging food in the Borlaug Barn as part of Cresco's Inspire Day, Participants in the Cresco CROP Hunger Rock.