Current COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and related business closures have left many Iowa workers jobless, and food banks in the state are scrambling to keep up with a surge in demand. The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and its county organizations are stepping up to help food banks replenish their supply of protein.
“In this time of need, this is just one way that pork producers can give back and help others,” said Trish Cook, an IPPA board member and a pig farmer from Winthrop, in Buchanan County. “Caring for our communities is one of our ethical principles.”
Most recently, IPPA is donating 8,500 pounds of ground pork, to be distributed equally among five food banks serving Iowans. Each location will receive 1,700 pounds, packaged in one-pound quantities, that will be part of cold-storage boxes the food banks send to pantries within their service areas.
The first pork delivery was this morning at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo.
Recipients of the pork are:
• Food Bank for the Heartland, Omaha, Neb., serving 93 counties in Nebraska and western Iowa.
• Food Bank of Iowa, Des Moines, which serves 55 central and southeastern Iowa counties, stretching from Missouri to Minnesota.
• Food Bank of Siouxland, Sioux City, serving eight counties in northwest Iowa, and three counties in Nebraska.
• Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP), Hiawatha, serving six counties in eastern Iowa.
• Northeast Iowa Food Bank, Waterloo, serving 16 Iowa counties.
Food banks across the state have adjusted their operations to respond to the growing need, while adhering to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ social-distancing orders. According to Barb Prather, executive director at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, most of its pantries remain open, though many have transitioned to curbside, drive-through distribution. That means clients remain in their vehicles, while staff or volunteers load up the food.
Prather noted the food bank has seen about a 20 percent increase in the number of people served throughout its regional system.
“We are up against what could be the most people ever needing access to food,” Prather said. “Fortunately, we are able to accept a lot of frozen items and put freezer boxes together for the clients we serve. To add ground pork is just another bonus for them.”
Along with these efforts, last month IPPA partnered with the Illinois Pork Producers Association to donate $8,000 worth of ground pork to the River Bend Foodbank in Davenport, which serves both Illinois and eastern Iowa residents. Each state organization contributed $4,000.
IPPA also has been working with county pork producer groups to provide nearly 8,000 pork snack sticks for grab-and-go meals that schools are offering to local families. In addition, IPPA and counties have teamed up to give coupons to food bank clients that they can redeem for fresh pork products at Iowa retailers. Pork coupons and snack sticks have also been presented as thank-you gestures to health care and emergency workers who are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 virus.
Editor’s note: Photos available from the delivery to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo.