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Major Donation Boosts Waterloo Food Bank

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WATERLOO, Iowa — For a phrase that may be unfamiliar but the problem is familiar to many Iowans.

“Food insecurity” is when a person does not have dependable access to enough food to sustain a healthy life, according to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo.

On Thursday, the food bank receives a robust donation from CN Railroad of $150,000 with a state matching that amount for a total of $300,000. Executive Director Barb Pranger said that total is enough to provide about 1.2 million meals for the more than 46,000 people the food bank serves across 16 counties.

“This year, we will distribute about 5.5 million pounds of food and that’s about 12 percent more than the year before,” said Prather.

The new NIFB facility on Lafayette Street is only about a year old but it is a hub for the people it serves.

Governor Terry Branstad was also on hand to meet with Prather, workers and volunteers at the Food Bank and CN executive Jim Kvedaras, who presented the oversized check to Prather.

In 2013, Branstad’s budget allowed for up to $1 million dollars in state money as matching funding for private donations. The CN donation qualifies, allowing for more money and more meals.

“I think (CN) is a very generous contribution and the whole way I envision it,” said Branstad. “We already had a lot private sector, especially food companies, donate a lot of food to the food bank of Iowa.”

Yet the governor’s budget for the 2014 session, which recently wrapped up, did not call for any state money going directly to provide for food banks, another sticking point from some opposing Democrats.

“The matching part of the bill is still in the law,” said Sen. Jeff Danielson, a Waterloo Democrat. “We don’t do the state contribution anymore. I wish we did because, in my view, there should be no such thing as hunger in Iowa. We’re one of the few states that doesn’t provide.”

Branstad said, rather than spend state money directly, said he prefers the private-public partnership to get people involved in helping instead of simply tax dollars.

“My heart goes out to anybody who goes that (hunger) or goes to bed hungry,” said Branstad. “We want to do what we can try to and help, especially children, to get the food and nutrition they need.”

With this infusion of money, Prather said a focus will be on enhancing nutritional programs for the thousands of people who use it.

“This will enable us to purchase more product, bring in more produce and be able to provide more food to northeast Iowa,” said Prather.

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