United Way of Story County (UWSC) is hosting its 11th annual LIVE UNITED food drive, helping families in need throughout the county.
The food drive will be collecting both food and funds from Monday to May 9 for 14 participating food pantries in Ames, Cambridge, Colo, Huxley, Maxwell, McCallsburg/Zearing, Nevada, Slater/Sheldahl and Story City. Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry in Story City is included.
“We know, through our work with Food Bank of Iowa and tracking data on Feeding America, that Story County has the highest rate of food insecurity in the state of Iowa,” said Sara Zejnic, UWSC community impact director. “We know there are people in this county who do not have enough resources to put food on the table.”
According to Feeding America, using data between 2001 and 2016, 15.5 percent of Story County’s population is considered food insecure. UWSC also said one in four children in Story County is eligible to receive free or reduced lunches, but the burden on parents will increase as summer starts.
“We really want to make sure food pantries in the county will have enough food to meet that added need,” Zejnic said. “Our goal is to make sure people have those basic needs. We have neighbors in this community who don’t have enough to eat and kids who are going hungry … if we can get enough people in the community who have enough to share, we can make sure people in the community aren’t struggling.”
During last year’s food drive, Story County community members helped collect over 11,000 pounds of food and more than $7,500 dollars. They hope to raise even more this year to meet increasing need.
Cari McPartland, The Salvation Army Service Center administrator and case manager, said, “Families are struggling and they need a little extra help to get through the month. When more than 30 percent of your income is just going towards putting a roof over your head, it makes it difficult to make decisions. Some people have to decide whether they are going to put gas in their car so that they can work or whether they will pay their rent.”
“We live in a county with a lot of industry and a lot people who are doing well, so we shouldn’t have that happening here. But we also have a lot of people who are living on the edge of some kind of disaster and they are hungry,” she said.
McPartland said The Salvation Army Service Center alone has seen between 200 and 210 families utilizing food pantry resources each month. Recently, she said, they have seen significant increases in the number of families coming for help who have never been seen at the pantry before.
Other pantries throughout the community have seen similar increases, according to Zejnic. In December 2018, about 3,600 people visited Story County pantries.
“That, to me, is an alarming number,” she said. “We need to be taking care of one another. It’s important that we understand that in all of our neighborhoods, there may be a family who is struggling and that just needs a little hand up for awhile.”
For food, the area pantries are in need of canned fruit, canned chicken and tuna, cereal and instant oatmeal, soup, canned meals, macaroni and cheese, pasta (not whole wheat) and sauce, peanut butter and jelly, and boxed meals. For non-food items, pantries are in need for diapers and pull ups, wipes, laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, deodorant and reusable bags.
McPartland also said it is important for people making a donation to check the expiration dates prior to dropping them off.
“This isn’t just a time to clear expired food out from your shelves. Assure that all the things donated are still good so we can put food on our shelves that we otherwise wouldn’t have,” she said.
Cash donations are also being collected through United Way of Story County, and all proceeds will be distributed to the local pantries. Many of the pantries purchase food from Food Bank of Iowa for 14 cents per pound, stretching cash donations further.
“The food drive is so important to what we do here. For all of us at the food pantries, our resources are limited and we only have a certain amount of money to work with,” McPartland said.
Donation drop off locations in Ames include: Ames Chamber, Ames Ford Lincoln, ChildServe, Dentistry at Somerset, Duck Worth Wearing, First National Bank (downtown location only) Greater Iowa Credit Union, Hunziker and Associates Realtors, InStyle Salon in JCPenney, London Underground, School Milage Clubs, South Duff Community Park, The Loft, The Mucky Duck Pub, United Way of Story County, US Bank, Vision Bank, Wilson Toyota and select locations at Iowa State University’s campus.
Drop off locations in Nevada include: Community Bank, Great Western Bank, State Bank and Trust, Story County, United Methodist Church and US Bank.