Every individual needs access to food. And preferably healthy, nutritious food. A visit to the grocery store is a luxury that many families simply cannot afford. United Way of Story County works with partners across the county to increase access to food for these families. Partnering with food pantries, human service agencies, faith-based groups, healthcare institutions, and local farms, UWSC’s Hunger Collaboration tackles these issues together, creating a network of resources and services available.
We know that one in four children are eligible to receive free or reduced lunch in Story County and this data trend has remained constant for years. While students are out of school, we see visits to pantries and pounds of food distributed tick higher and higher. This issue is ongoing, and seemingly not disappearing.
For the past two years, one silver lining of the pandemic was the added assistance from federally funded programs. SNAP recipients have been allowed to utilize the maximum SNAP benefit since April 2020 with a minimum increase of $95 per household. As of April 1, 2022, that additional benefit is terminated. While we climb out of a pandemic, this leaves many families who relied on those resources to once again look for other options. With the rising costs of food, this is truly a dire need in our community.
Our work is cut out for us. Along with so many organizations and businesses, we’re gearing up to stock pantry shelves and support those in need. Looking for ways you can help? There’s plenty.
GIVE- The LIVE UNITED Food Drive is happening at the end of the month. From April 25 to May 5 you’ll find over 70 drop-off locations throughout the county. Pantry’s are in need of non-perishable food, hygiene items, household goods like sponges and paper towels, and more. You can also donate cash, or new this year, contribute via Venmo! (See www.uwstory.org/food-drive for the Venmo QR code.) Monetary donations allow pantries to purchase fresh items from The Food Bank of Iowa at a much lower cost than purchasing from grocery stores!
ADVOCATE- SNAP benefits are critical for families with low incomes to feed themselves and their children. UWSC works with partner agencies to ensure families access the benefits available to them and receive other supports with programs like WIC and Double up Food Bucks. United Way also works within our education initiatives to inform families with school aged children to register for the Free/Reduced Lunch programs within their schools, a huge benefit that some are still unaware of.
VOLUNTEER – Pantries across the county need volunteers to stock shelves, sort items, and distribute goods to pantry visitors. Community members are also welcome to volunteer on our Hunger Collaboration if interested in addressing local food insecurity as a whole.
United Way’s mission is to build partnerships and support effective human services especially in the areas of health, education, and financial stability. Hunger hits all three, as a necessary component to a healthy and thriving life. Living United in our community is to ensure that everyone has access to basic needs. Together we can ensure that all have a seat, and plate, at the table.