OPINION

Food drive helps fight hunger in Story County

Allie Prusa, UWSC Marketing Director
Guest opinion contributor

Every year, as the school months wind down, we gear up for our annual LIVE UNITED Food Drive. We know that 1 out of 4 children in Story County are eligible for free and reduced lunches. While school is in session, these children receive breakfasts and lunches with no cost to the family, ensuring healthy and nutritious meals at least twice a day. Many students are also able to take home a backpack of food and snacks on Fridays to get them through the weekend, as part of the Food Bank of Iowa’s BackPack Program, funded in part by United Way of Story County.

As soon as school’s out for the summer, these students are home for every meal, increasing the financial strain of the family’s budget. This is why the LIVE UNITED Food Drive is held every May. Thousands of pounds of donated food stock our local pantries shelves so families can ensure they have enough throughout the summer months. With the pandemic placing even more families in hardship, hunger has only increased.

During the shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic, many individuals were out of work and needed support like never before. At the MICA food pantry in Ames, 20% of individuals served in those first few months were utilizing the pantry for the first time. Schools were closed and students couldn’t access school meals and hunger was on the rise. Quickly, United Way shifted to a virtual food drive, raising more than $43,000 for local pantries; as schools transitioned to grab-and-go meals to continue serving children and supporting families. The surge in food insecurity was real but we rallied together to provide support for those in need.

Over the past six months, our partner agency pantries have served on average 405 individuals a month. As more individuals are able to be back at work, we may be in a better position than we were one year ago, yet 25% of children in our county remain on free and reduced lunches. Two out of the 23 pantries in Story County served nearly 9,000 individuals in the past year.

Hunger is an issue, and we must fight to stop it. We must support those wondering how to provide the next meal for their family. We must reimagine what health for every person in our community looks like. Together, we can make an impact and feed those in need today. Join us as we fight hunger in Story County and donate to the 2021 LIVE UNITED Food Drive. Please visit uwstory.org/food-drive for more info.

United Way of Story County is a strategic leader in building countywide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support, and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of health, education, and financial stability for our diverse community.