HIAWATHA, Iowa — Lary Lloyd says he’s a pretty lucky man, and he attributes a lot of that luck to Horizon’s Meals on Wheels program in Cedar Rapids.
“I’m not going to ever go hungry,” he said. “I’ll never go hungry, I’ll never starve because of Meals on Wheels. They won’t let you.”
Lloyd, who lives on about $600 a month, has been a client for Meals on Wheels for almost 10 years. He said they make his day-to-day life a lot easier.
“How in the world could I be so lucky to be able to have a meal every day?” he wondered.
Lloyd’s gratitude is shared by over 400,000 people in Iowa struggling with hunger, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. And local food charities like Meals on Wheels are grateful for donations from Feed Iowa First, a local non-profit dedicated to producing fresh vegetables for the needy.
“We don’t own any land, so what we do is we take underutilized land surrounding corporations or churches and turn it into production,” Sonia Kendrick, executive director of Feed Iowa First said.
On Wednesday Kendrick and her organization began planting their first urban farm in Hiawatha, after receiving approval from the Hiawatha City Council last week. A local business, Strategic Print Solutions, Inc. reached out to Kendrick and offered part of their property for a tomato garden.
“They knew they had some open land, and they donated it and it’s amazing what they’re doing,” she said.
Casey Ealy, president of SPS, Inc., said it was a no-brainer to offer Kendrick their unused space after meeting her at a leadership conference last year.
“She had explained to the class what she does, and it just kind of got my attention,” he said. “I had thought about this land back here, and it’s been sitting empty here the whole time. I thought it was just being kind of wasted ... so I approached her.”
The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, another benefactor of Feed Iowa First, is located just down the street from SPS. Since the summer season is their busiest in terms of food donations, they say having an urban garden close by will make all the difference.
“Being able to access something that’s right down the street from us, I mean words can’t describe,” Amanda Pieper, director of the HACAP Food Reservoir, said. “It’s truly a miracle.”
For Kendrick, these urban gardens are a common-sense way to eradicate hunger in Iowa.
“We have the capacity to feed all of [Iowans] their minimal daily allowances of vegetables just using our underutilized land surrounding our companies, our corporations and our churches,” she said.
Lloyd says giving back to others has made his survival possible, and even he wants to return the favor.
“When you give, you get it back,” he said. “I like giving, it’s a good feeling. And apparently the rest of the people who give so much feel the same way.”