Governor Reynolds served alongside AmeriCorps members, learning about new initiatives in Iowa to address rising food insecurity as a result of COVID-19 and the economic recession.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented various challenges to communities throughout the country. Perhaps one of the farthest-reaching issues however is food insecurity. Food banks everywhere are seeing increases in demand as families struggle to put food on the table during this difficult time.
Recently, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg visited the Northeast Iowa Food Bank (NEIFB) to learn more about how this issue affects Iowa specifically. Barb Prather, executive director of NEIFB, took the group on a tour of the facility while sharing her experiences in operating the food bank during the pandemic. Governor Reynolds and Lieutenant Governor Gregg joined AmeriCorps members serving at the food bank in repackaging bulk purchases of food items so they can be redistributed in smaller quantities to families in need.
Throughout the visit, the elected officials learned of the expansive role NEIFB has played in combatting a lack of access to healthy foods in Iowa and the critical role AmeriCorps members have played in expanding their impact. NEIFB is the largest food bank in Northeast Iowa. Since the pandemic began though, it has been called on to increase its capacity further. The number of families using the food bank has risen by 20-25%, while in rural areas it is as high as 45%. Through initiatives led by the Feeding Iowans Task Force, begun by Gov. Reynolds and led by Lt. Gov. Gregg, it has crafted innovative initiatives to meet this need. These include:
- Purchasing bulk amounts of food which two AmeriCorps NCCC teams then break down into consumer-friendly products that are distributed at six food banks across Iowa;
- Using funds from Iowa’s “Pass the Pork” initiative to distribute 8,000 pounds of pork to families around the state; and,
- Developing additional programs to most effectively utilize Iowa’s CARES Act funds that Gov. Reynolds has directed to food banks.
This collaboration with Northeast Iowa Food Bank, VolunteerIowa, and AmeriCorps NCCC provides a snapshot of the work AmeriCorps members are doing to reduce food insecurity throughout Iowa. Multiple other programs have begun around the state during the pandemic. Here are two examples:
- “The Iowa Gleaning Network,” run by Table to Table has AmeriCorps members harvest crops from small farms that would otherwise go bad and donate them to those in need
- With assistance from the COVID-19 Recovery AmeriCorps Program, Seed Savers Exchange is providing organizations assistance in growing food and saving seeds, with the goal of increasing local resilience and food security
Outside of Iowa, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs across the country are ramping up efforts to help communities addressing growing nutritional needs. In addition to supporting the efforts of food banks like NEIFB, members are also delivering meals and groceries to vulnerable seniors, supporting students by staffing school food distribution sites, and caring for community gardens that provide fresh, healthy products to food banks. Collectively, since the start of the national emergency, national service members have provided more than 2.5 million meals and collected and distributed more than 15.6 million pounds of food.
CNCS is inspired by the imaginative and inventive programs members have advanced during this crisis. We are excited to see this work continue throughout and after the COVID-19 pandemic, as we work to continually improve adequate access to healthy and nutritious food for members of all communities.