Bitterly cold weather and a souring economy are making the holidays a very busy, very challenging time at the Food Bank of Iowa, which distributes canned goods and other food items to homeless shelters and food pantries across a large portion of the state. Deputy director Carrie Miller says Iowans are very generous in their giving of non-perishable goods, but the demand is outpacing donations.

Miller says the food bank sends out around 400-thousand pounds of food every month, which works out to around five-million pounds a year. "The problem is," she says, "as fast as we can get the food in it’s going right back out the door." She says several factors are coming into play to make life extremely difficult for many Iowans right now.

Miller says it’s a combination of the economy, the weather and the many layoffs in all sorts of industries across Iowa. "People are just having a hard time making their dollars stretch and on top of that, food prices have increased significantly the last year," Miller says. Iowans who’ve never before had to seek out this type of aid are finding themselves with few alternatives, and she says there is certainly a growing number of people in need.

Miller says the food bank’s partner agencies are seeing a worsening situation as shelters and food pantries are seeing families for the first time while the soup kitchens are reporting new faces in line for meals. The Food Bank of Iowa serves about 290 non-profit food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens in 42 counties.