The non-profit group that provides food to dozens of pantries and shelters across western Iowa and eastern Nebraska is seeing a big boost in donations — and in demand. Brian Barks, spokesman for the Omaha Food Bank, says donations are up 10%, but the need for food has risen 30%. Barks says one reason for the jump in demand is the growing popularity of a program that targets low-income children.
“We went from about 16 schools last year serving 11-hundred kids, to this year, 26 schools and well over two-thousand.” The food bank’s backpack program gives empoverished children a backpack full of food on Fridays to ensure they have enough to eat over the weekend. On Mondays, the child brings the backpack back to school, they’re collected by the food bank and refilled so they can go home with a child again on Fridays.
“It sends meals home over the weekend for kids who are at risk of hunger,” he says. Barks says many people will donate non-perishable food items to the food bank, but others will simply donate cash. He says both are welcome, and as for cash, the agency knows how to stretch a buck.
Barks says, “A simple dollar donation is worth $14 of distributed food because of our buying power and what we do here at the food bank.” The Omaha Food Bank expects to distribute between five-and-seven-million pounds a food this year, reaching 300-thousand people on both sides of the Missouri River.