University of Iowa food pantry seeing an increase in need

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 7:05 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The pandemic is keeping food pantries across Eastern Iowa busy. That includes the ones on college campuses. University of Iowa food pantry workers GET ready for another busy Wednesday. People wait in line before the pantry opens.

Leaders say their services have doubled since the pandemic. It’s not just students. “A lot of it is loss of income,” said Charlotte Lenkaitis, Executive Director at the UI Food Pantry. “People losing jobs. A lot of people form UI Hospitals and Clinics has started to access our resources, and they say their salaries have been cut, hours have been cut.”

Lenkaitis has worked at the pantry going back to her freshman year. Four years later, she still loves helping others, but hates seeing people struggle.

“I think it’s also frustrating too,” she said. “Just to see how many people are in need of these emergency food resources, and just to see how many governmental or university assistance is not being provided.”

That’s why they are pushing how the pantry can help more often. They send out emails to students and staff about their free services. HACAP provides the food. People can grab as much as they need to get by.

“You don’t have to qualify at all,” said Sarah Henry, Civic Engagement Program Coordinator. “All we ask is that people bring their university ID. We don’t do any screenings or anything like that. We just want all students, faculty, and staff interested in using the pantry to use it.”

Lenkaitis will continue helping others. She thinks about those who may not have a meal during the holidays.

“I’m pushing back my plans to travel home so that I can help out at the food pantry,” she said. “So definitely some sacrifices involved in making sure that the services is continuing to operate.”

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