Food Pantry Network Faces Challenges with Increase in Need, Decrease in Donations

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) Food Pantry Network is a major help for people like Halima Mouhanne, who came to the greater Des Moines area from Morocco.

“It help me a lot,” said Mouhanne. “(It) help me, help my friend, help, everybody here is really good people, good like if you broke, you have nothing to eat and everything, you come in here, it help a lot.”

There are 13 pantry sites in the network. The network is the largest food pantry system in Iowa and it serves people from all walks of life.

“Even like at our suburb pantries, at our West Des Moines pantry, we`re seeing you know, 40-50% maybe of people that English is their second language coming into the pantry,” said Daniel Beck, Network Assistant Director. “So, a lot of immigrant, a lot of refugee population from all different parts of the world.”

But the service DMARC provides is in jeopardy, because it’s seeing an increase in use while at the same time it’s seeing a decrease in donations.

“In August of this year, last month, we served 17,454 people, which is a lot of people,” said Rev. Sarai Rice, DMARC’S Executive Director.

In fact, that was the second-highest month of usage in the food pantry network’s 41-year history.

“The only time that we saw more people was November of last year, and November is always our highest month,” said Rice.

But people give during that time of year.

“People always think to give at Thanksgiving and they don`t think to give during the other parts of the year, and so we have like a miscellaneous shelf and people are supposed to be able to choose one item per family member, but right now we`re down to maybe pound cake and a couple things of jello,” said Eileen Boggess, Executive Director of the Urbandale Food Pantry.

The lack of donations is having an impact on how much food people in need are able to receive.

“When families come and they look at the shelves…they are unable to choose pasta, because we run out of pasta really fast,” said Boggess. “We`re ordering about five thousand pounds of food a week from DMARC and that food is gone by Thursday.”

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