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Linn County organization sees need for fresh produce rise enormously in month after derecho

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 10:38 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Feed Iowa First’s Veggie Bus — a vehicle the Linn County nonprofit takes to neighborhoods in the Cedar Rapids area as it gives out fresh produce for free — has picked up quite a few miles over the last month.

The organization, which fights food insecurity by growing produce in its own “urban farms” across the county and partnering with other local farms to distribute that produce to food pantries and directly to consumers, normally distributes food three days a week.

But in the weeks after the derecho, it was giving away produce almost every day, according to AmeriCorps VISTA Farm Coordinator Kit Kirby.

“It was a lot of go, go, go, more so than it usually is,” Kirby said. “Long days, but they went by quickly because we were doing what was necessary during these times.”

Feed Iowa First said it distributed 22,773 pounds of produce to 2,160 families since the Aug. 10 derecho. In 2019, the organization reported it distributed around 20,000 pounds of produce throughout the entire year.

Today marks 1 month since our community was impacted by the Derecho. Thank you to everyone who extended a helping hand...

Posted by Feed Iowa First on Thursday, September 10, 2020

“That’s way above average,” Kirby said. “We’ve had great support with our rural and urban partners, donations coming from in town, out of town, near and far.”

The organization says most of its own urban farms fared well in the storm, though Kirby noted some of the produce was destroyed.

Feed Iowa First said the most serious damage it suffered as an organization was to a greenhouse near its office in southeast Cedar Rapids, which it said now can’t be repaired.

But Kirby said Feed Iowa First had planned to take the greenhouse down anyways before the derecho did the job.

“It’s been a hectic few weeks, but we’re getting back into the groove of things,” Kirby said.

As people continue to recover from the derecho, Kirby doesn’t see this increased need going away soon.

“I do think the need for fresh, nutrient-dense produce will be on the rise,” Kirby said.

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