Food pantries in the state are feeling the pinch of the economic crisis. The food pantry at the Iowa City Crisis Center says demand has jumped 30-percent since 2007. Officials say this is busiest they’ve been in their 34-year history. Demand is so high right now, Crisis Center food bank volunteers can give away an entire shelf full of food in just one day — and this month alone, 100 new families signed up for help.
Food bank director Sarah Benson-Witry says, "We’re seeing a lot of people who have never been in this situation." Client Jacinta Peters says the food bank has always been crowded, but now people are fighting over the food." "That’s what I hear…nobody can find a job," Peters says. While layoffs have driven some people to the pantry, Benson Witry says others are coming because employers cut their hours.
"They had a job where they were just making it. Now, they’re not making it because they don’t have enough hours," Benson-Witry says. The food pantry relies on donations to feed hungry people. Benson-Witry says right now, there’s a real need for more cans of soup. "We saw a slight decrease in gas prices for awhile, but the food prices didn’t change. So, people are still having to pay a lot more for the food they used to get," Benson Witry said.
The food bank now serves clients ranging from homeless people to laid off businessmen. If the economy continues to decline, volunteers expect food will disappear from the shelves and tables even faster than it does right now…which is hard for any of them to imagine.