Experts from Iowa State University offered their insight Tuesday at a hunger summit in Des Moines. The event served as a kickoff to this week’s World Food Prize festivities. ISU Extension Vice President Jack Payne defended the use of corn for fuel – saying ethanol is not solely to blame for high food prices. Payne says while it does contribute to the price, the bigger culprit is the cost of petroleum.

"There’s all these issues that happens to our food after it leaves the farm…plastics, marketing, preparing of food and transportation. We’ve gotten away from local foods and it’s a huge deal to transport food around this country," Payne said. Meanwhile, ISU nutrition expert Susan Klein predicts a growing number of Iowans will be forced to use food pantries if the economy continues to weaken. Klein serves as a consultant for the Des Moines area food pantries, which now serve more than 10-thousand people a month.

"We used to call them emergency food pantries. We now just call them a food pantry," Klein noted. "It’s no longer a case of will they or won’t they come…we know they’re coming. The term ’emergency’ is no longer appropriate, we are now responsible for people who are hungry." Another sign of the growing problem of food insecurity in Iowa is the use of food stamps.

Klein says the use of food stamps in Iowa increased by 14-percent from 2005 to 2007. "I think that is a statistic that is only going to increase before it goes down," Klein said. The World Food Prize celebration honors people who are working to improve the nation’s food supply.