Most people would agree that the complex challenge of hunger is best approached through partnerships. Two recent initiatives highlight the power of collaborations between business, nonprofit, and educational institutions to feed hungry kids in Iowa.
One initiative, led by the Land O’Lakes Foundation and the Food Bank of Iowa, is distributing 40,000 lbs of Mac and Cheese in 55 Iowa counties. The other initiative, led by the Midwest Dairy Council, is partnering with schools across Iowa to help students start each day with a healthy breakfast.
Are you part of a collaboration that should be highlighted in the Iowa Hunger Directory newsletter? Share your story with us anytime by contacting Stephen at email@example.com or 515-245-3730.
Midwest Dairy Council Partnering with Iowa Schools on Breakfast Programs
By Erin Thole, Iowa Health and Wellness Program Manager, Midwest Dairy Council
While breakfast remains to be the most important meal of the day only 13 million students consume school breakfast compared to the 31 million students who consume school lunch. Much of this is due to the stereotype that breakfast is for students who are certified for free or reduced priced meals. To help close the gap and move away from the stereotype, Midwest Dairy has helped schools across Iowa implement programs such as Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab ‘n’ go breakfast, and second chance breakfast.
Land O’Lakes Foundation Donates 40,000 lbs. of Mac and Cheese
Premade product provides an easy-to-fix option for recipients
By A.J. Graves, Community Relations Manager, Land O’Lakes
This month, the Land O’Lakes Foundation First Run program donated 40,000 lbs. of macaroni and cheese to the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines. The product will be distributed through 390 partner agencies as well as direct service programs in 42 counties throughout the state, as well as an additional 13 counties through their redistribution organization, the Food Bank of Southern Iowa.
What makes our product donation unique is that it’s a premade, easy-to-fix option for recipients.
“The 5 lb. bags of LAND O LAKES® macaroni and cheese are perfect for the clients we serve,” said Carey Miller, executive director for the Food Bank of Iowa. “It can be paired with meat and produce clients receive from our partner agencies or programs to create a complete meal. And it’s great because no additional ingredients are needed for preparation.”
As Miller guided three Land O’Lakes corporate board members through the distribution center, she explained the ways they get food to people in need.
“Our partner agencies and food bank programs have access to an online ordering system 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Miller. “They order food based on the needs of their clients. The food is then distributed by us or picked up by the agency or program.”
There are a number of companies like Land O’Lakes that donate product, but that’s not the only source of support for the Food Bank of Iowa, a member of the Feeding America® food bank network.
“We partner with a great farming family in Madrid, Iowa,” said Miller. “They designate seven acres of their land for volunteers to plant, maintain and harvest produce. We also partner with the Newton Correctional Facility where inmates plant, grow and harvest food on 12 acres of land.”
The food bank also relies on donations from producers, manufacturers and retailers throughout the service area.
“We receive food donations from a number of places,” said Miller, nodding toward a stack of crates filled with various food items. “For instance, we will pick up meat and produce that nearing expiration, bring it back to the distribution center and refrigerator or freeze it to maintain quality.”
To help clients get the most out of the produce they receive, Miller and her team worked with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “The nutritionists and dieticians help develop great materials for our clients,” she said. “The handouts focus on the benefits, storage and uses of the produce that we distribute.”
More than 21 million children qualify for free or reduced-price meals throughout the National School Lunch Program and the National School Lunch Breakfast Program.* Many of these children count on the meals they receive during the school day to get enough to eat, making weekends an especially vulnerable time.
Near the end of the tour, Miller stopped next to a crate of peanut butter to explain how the food bank and partner agencies reach these children—and their families—in need. As part of the Feeding America BackPack Program™, the Food Bank of Iowa and fill students’ backpacks with a variety of foodstuff to help them get through the weekend.
The program aims to fill backpacks with enough food to make at least two meals and have snacks on hand including cereal, fruit cups, sunbutter or peanut butter, 100 percent fruit juice, pop-top meals or soup. The Food Bank of Iowa expects to serve 5,000 low income elementary school aged children through the BackPack Program™ in 2015.
It takes 17 full-time employees and countless volunteers to keep the food bank and its programs running, something Miller doesn’t take for granted.
“Our employees and volunteers help unload, sort and pack food,” she said. “And our drivers cover our service area of 30,000 square miles. We appreciate what everyone does for the food bank.”
At the end of their tour, Miller and the board members watched as workers finished unloading a semi-truck of what seemed to be an endless supply of macaroni and cheese. But even though 40,000 lbs. is a lot, the stockpile won’t last long.
“As soon as we get it into the system—likely today—agencies will start ordering it and distribution will begin tomorrow,” she said. “This is wonderful product and it will go quickly.”
About First Run
The First Run program, part of the Land O’Lakes Foundation, provides fresh product made by our Land O’Lakes, Inc. plant employees for donation to food banks across the country. To date, the program has donated 3 million lbs. of product to 83 food banks and their partner agencies.
*source: Feeding America
Photo credits: Top: A student enjoys breakfast before class, Middle: Land O' Lakes Foundation members meet with the Food Bank of Iowa staff, Bottom: Boxes of Mac & Cheese being delivered to the Food Bank of Iowa warehouse