Eastern Iowa food banks struggle with supply as demand is up

Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 11:10 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Food banks are seeing more demand at the same time they’re experiencing shortages.

Kaila Rome, executive director at North Liberty Community Pantry, said, “From May of this year compared to May of last year, we saw a 70% increase” in the number of people visiting to get food.

April was the first month Iowans on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, did not have extra pandemic benefits. Iowa ended the extra benefits early when Governor Kim Reynolds ended the state’s coronavirus disaster proclamation.

Rome said the return to pre-pandemic levels of support has hit some households particularly hard. “We know some families that they were getting over $300 to pay for their groceries throughout the month—that was super helpful and beneficial to them—are now only getting $20.”

She added, “When you couple that with the increase in gas prices and inflation, we’ve been seeing a huge increase.”

Inflation isn’t just impacting individuals. It’s contributing to shortages for the food pantries themselves. “Our dollar isn’t going quite as far as it used to We used to be able to buy five pounds of food with $1. That price—I haven’t done the math recently but it definitely hasn’t stayed that low.”

Another factor creating short supply: competition. “Other food pantries and food banks are also seeing this increase all at the same time,” said Rome. “So we’re all trying to get the exact same sort of foods, the same staples that every food pantry is looking for.“

Jane Suiter is the president of Linn Community Food Bank. She said, “We haven’t seen the food shortage here yet because, again, we’re being proactive.” While there may not be a shortage, Suiter said she’s seen a squeeze in supplies. “We brought in things when HACAP had things available. HACAP I think is seeing more of a food shortage.”

HACAP, Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, distributes food to local food banks.

Krystal Kabela, Food Bank Manager at CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank, had a similar story. “I do know that we order a lot of our inventory from HACAP and I know this week was better. Last week, we had about probably—our shopping list is usually three pages, two to three pages. And last week, it was just over a page.”

Donations are welcome at all food banks.

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