As the holiday celebrating a bounty of food and prosperity gets closer — one leader of an emergency food pantry says more and more Iowans are thankful just to get some food on the table. Sister Sandra Rodemyer runs the Des Moines Area Religious Council’s Emergency Food Pantry that serves Polk County — Iowa’s largest county. She says she thinks what happens in Polk County interms of hunger is an indicator of what happens in the state. She says up until this year, the highest volume of people they served was in 1992. She says so far this year through October, they’re just 684 families away from meeting that number. Rodemyer says while the number of people being served has gone up, the donations have gone down, and the pantry has had to dip into its cash reserve. She says so far in October they’ve served families 24-thousand-463 times, and says they served 573 new families in the month of October. Rodemyer made her comments Friday at a news conference in which the Iowa Federation of Labor criticized federal efforts to get the economy going. She says it’s “a grave concern” because she says there’s a misunderstanding about the type of people who’re visiting the pantry. She says the vast majority are working people who can’t afford food on what they’re making and she says there are people on a fixed income. Rodemyer says they took in more food than they gave out between 1995 and 2000, then things started to drop. She says she worries that the demand for food at the pantry has never stopped. She says they’ve been giving out food for 26 years and the fact that the numbers are increasing is not a sign of success for the economy. She says in the business world, growth and longevity are a sign of success — but she says it’s not a sign of success in the food Rodemyer says raising the federal minimum wage would help. She says the minimum wage isn’t even a living wage, and that’s the primary reason people have to come to the food pantry. Rodemyer says employers are also to blame for using more part-time people and not providing benefits, so workers don’t have enough money to put food on the table.
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