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The Strain Of The Pandemic Is Leaving Many Iowans Struggling To Access Affordable Food

Staff Sgt. Nathan Maysonet/47th Flying Training Wing Public
Wikimedia Commons
Food banks and other food support organizations have seen a significant increase in demand since the start of the pandemic. A concern that's likely to reverberate for years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many Iowans struggling to afford accessible, nutritious and culturally-specific food.

Organizations, including the Food Bank of Iowa, Iowa’s largest food bank, have reported a massive increase in requests for services. Currently, 60% of people receiving support from this organization are doing so for the first time ever.

On this episode of River to River, a look at food insecurity in Iowa and the individuals and organizations fighting back. Host Ben Kieffer is joined by Food Bank of Iowa CEO Michelle Book; Zuli Garcia, founder of Latinx Knock and Drop, a new culturally-specific food pantry and support organization in Des Moines; and Nancy Carol, executive director of Heartland Senior Services in Story County, which provides hot meals to seniors through Meals on Wheels.

Later in the program, Des Moines Register reporter Tyler Jett discusses his recent investigative reporting on demands from the state, calling for certain Iowans to repay unemployment benefits received during the pandemic. Also, Dr. Patrick Hartley, director of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ Employee Health Clinic where frontline health care workers are currently receiving early doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Hartley discusses UIHC’s plan for vaccine distribution to medical staff and recounts his own experience receiving the first dose of the vaccine on Monday.


  • Michelle Book, CEO of the Food Bank of Iowa
  • Zuli Garcia, founder of Latinx Knock and Drop Iowa
  • Nancy Carroll, executive director of Heartland Senior Services in Story County
  • Tyler Jett, jobs and economy reporter for the Des Moines Register
  • Dr. Patrick Hartley, director of University of Iowa’s Employee Health Clinic
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa