The need’s there all year round but this is the season people tend to think of giving to their local food bank — and they’re happy to have the help. Barbara Prather (PRAY’-thur) directs the Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo. It began in 1981 in response to an emergency need for food in the Cedar Valley. Prather says the next year they became part of “America’s Second Harvest,” a national food-bank network, one of 200 affiliates across the country that get food from national donors, then distributes it to other nonprofits. She adds they serve an area of 16 counties in northeast Iowa. Prather explains they don’t run food pantries, but handle distribution to the local food-shelf operations that hand out the commodities. This is giving on a big scale, as Second Harvest takes mis-labeled or other imperfect products in large quantities to give to the needy. They have relationships with national donors like food-processing giant Con-Agra, General Mills, Quaker and other companies…and take those new food products that’d otherwise be thrown away, hauling semi-loads to food banks, which in turn dispense it to a network of food pantries, shelters and kitchens. They work with local stores, too, to intercept food that’s slated to be thrown away. As an example, she says it might be getting close to its expiration date but if the network can get it, they’ll hand it out to people who need the food. And as with any charity, she says they could always use a check, to help pay the cost of warehouse storage, running freezers and trucks, and all the other work done to distribute the food. The Northeast Iowa Food Bank is one of six serving various regions of Iowa.
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