Around two dozen flower shops across Iowa are participating in a food drive today through Saturday as part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The effort, which involves several states in the central U.S., is expected to generate over 32 tons of food for those in need.

Brian Barks is spokesperson for Food Bank for the Heartland in Oman, which provides services to 16 counties in western Iowa and 77 counties in Nebraska. “Thirty-two tons of food going to organizations like ours…will make a great deal of difference,” Barks said. “But, we need so much more.”

The economic downturn is credited for a 40% increase in demand for food from charity providers across the country. Barks said demand is definitely outpacing food donations at the foodbank in Omaha. “Last fiscal year, approximately 16-percent of our inventory was purchased. So far this fiscal year, about 31-percent of the food we’ve distributed are items we’ve purchased,” Barks said.

“As of right now, we are on pace to about double the amount of food we are buying.” The decline in inventory is blamed primarily on cuts to the U.S.D.A. Commodities Program. This week, donors who bring two cans of food to participating flower shops can buy one dozen long-stemmed roses for just $10.

The cans will then be delivered to a local food-distribution charity, such as the Foodbank for the Heartland. “This campaign with local flower shops is tremendous,” Barks said. “It’s one of a myriad of campaigns that we need to happen in order to keep our shelves stocked.”

This marks the 14th year for the “Caring Rose Week” effort. More information and a map of participating florists is available at