A food bank that serves tens of thousands of people in western Iowa and across Nebraska is seeing a renewed record demand for its canned goods and other food items. Brian Barks, spokesman for the Omaha-based Food Bank for the Heartland, says food distribution in July reached an all-time high.

“Close to 815,000 pounds of food,” Barks says. “That shattered the previous record of about 745,000 pounds of food which was in April of this year.” Barks says the summer months are busy for the food bank, with kids out of school, but requests usually pick up in the fall and peak during the holidays. He says it’s worrisome that they’re seeing such a high demand now, during the late summer.

“This is much higher than what we have done in the past, much, much higher,” he says. “As a matter of fact, we expect this trend to continue through the holiday season.” Barks chalks it up to basic economics and the law of supply and demand — the demand is up and supplies are down.

Barks says, “The amount of need that there is out there in the community, the amount of our food donations have not kept pace with the amount of food we have distributed.” Barks says that will change when organizations start conducting food drives again. He admits if you walk into the food bank, there are empty shelves and he calls that disturbing, but for now, they are keeping up with the added demand.

He says, “That is fine but it’s something we cannot sustain for the long, long term.” Compared to one year ago, food distribution at the Food Bank is up 19%, and it’s up more than 30% from 2008. In any given week, Barks says 22,000 people seek emergency assistance in the Food Bank’s service area.

While the Food Bank does have an emergency food pantry in the Omaha facility, it is a warehouse and distributes food to pantries in 77 counties in Nebraska and 16 in western Iowa. The Food Bank distributes over seven-million pounds of food each year.

By Karla James