Beginning this week, agencies that help get food to hungry Iowans are expanding their services.
The Des Moines area’s DMARC Mobile Food Pantry will add four more stops to its schedule, which will provide a healthy, three-day supply of food to some people who haven’t been able to get it from other food pantry locations.
Luke Elzinga, DMARC’s communications manager, says the additional stops mean the mobile pantry will reach more of the people the agency knows are in need.
“That’s because we’re being deliberate about the communities and locations we’re visiting,” he says. As an example, he says one of the new stops is a senior center “where the majority of those people were not visiting a food pantry before.”
Elzinga says DMARC has not registered an uptick in demand for food, but in Northeast Iowa expanding services are a reflection of greater need.
Barbara Prather, executive director of the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, says the recent federal government shutdown, a series of storms and severe cold weather have spiked demand. She says school closings shifted food distribution during some weeks and the pantries want to make sure schools and families have what they need, especially for the program that sends food home with children on weekends.
During the shutdown, people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits got all of February’s money ahead of schedule. That gave them greater responsibility for budgeting how they spend their benefits.
“Hopefully they’re budgeting on a regular basis so that they’ll have money available the whole month and they won’t need us as often,” Prather says, “but if they do need us, that’s part of the reason for the extra distributions as well.”
And the threat of another government shutdown looms with the Friday deadline for Congress and the White House to reach an immigration deal. That could again disrupt food benefits for millions of people on SNAP.