Pandemic winds down but food demand does not

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The COVID-19 pandemic is winding down, but demand at the Food Bank of Iowa is not. Iowa’s economy was in good shape before the pandemic, with an unemployment rate of 2%. At the same time, the food insecurity rate was 10%.

“COVID-19 hit and at the time the economic fallout of the pandemic became apparent. Our food insecurity number doubled in the state of Iowa,” said Michelle Book, president and CEO at the Food Bank of Iowa. “Very quickly we had to scramble to find more food, get it out and keep people safe.”

Book said many people in the lower 20% of the economy have had trouble making ends meet.

“Many of the people we serve at Food Bank of Iowa have jobs. That’s a common misperception that the people who are food insecure are the folks who live in homeless centers or are camping under the bridge. We serve those people also,” said Book. “But the vast majority of people we serve have a high school education, many have some college education, a majority of them have a house, a home or apartment. They have a roof over their heads, but they are not making a living wage.”

The Food Bank of Iowa works with a network of pantries across much of Iowa to provide needed food supply.

“Imagine you have four children, your wife works as a nurse’s aid and you work at a convenient store trying to scrape up enough money to keep things going from two minimum wage jobs. It’s not going to cover your cost of living,” said Book. “We see senior citizens on fixed income, people who are mentally and physically handicapped and the people struggling to make ends meet.”

Book added that the group Feeding the Children projects the increased food insecurity rate from the pandemic could last until 2025 or 2026.

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