Coralville Community Food Pantry starts offering pet food

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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) It takes some teamwork to stock the shelves at the Coralville Community Food Pantry, and this month, staff and volunteers added another task: portioning dog and cat food for the pet pantry.

A cat naps at the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 (Jordee Kalk/KCRG)

Paola Jaramillo Guayara, the pantry’s communication and program director, said families are already taking advantage of this service. The pantry serves roughly 250 area families a week.

"If you're already struggling to find that food source income for yourself, it becomes that much more challenging to find it for your animal,” Jaramillo Guayara said. “And then you do have to make those difficult decisions of are you going to feed yourself or feed your animal."

In some cases, families may be forced to think of finding another home for their animals. The Friends of the Animal Center Foundation realized this need and donated $1,200 to help kickstart the program.

"It's so sad to have to surrender a dog or a cat because you can't afford food,” Nina Metzner, a foundation member, said. “We never want an animal surrendered for that reason."

The foundation believes the new pet pantry will prevent some animals from ending up in area shelters. Pantry staff adds it's important to keep families and pets together because animals can provide vital emotional support.

"Especially if you are going through a trying time, it's great to have that companion,” Jaramillo Guayara said.

People can visit the pantry once a week to pick up food. The pantry has hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturdays. Staff said they're also accepting pet food donations in addition to more conventional donations.