Many Iowa food banks are struggling to keep their pantries stocked as there’s been an increase in demand for their services at the same donations have dropped off.
Brian Barks is spokesperson for Food Bank for the Heartland in Omaha, which provides services to 16 counties in western Iowa and 77 counties in Nebraska. “Right now, our inventory is as low as I’ve seen it leading up to Thanksgiving,” Barks said. “It’s just been a real tough struggle getting food in our doors. Unfortunately, what we’re having to do is spend a lot more money buying food in order to help those who need it.”
During the last fiscal year, the Food Bank for the Heartland purchased about 16% of its inventory. This year, 31% of the food they distribute is purchased. Compounding the problem is rising food prices.
Barks notes one of their most distributed items is peanut butter. “What we’ve seen, year to date, is a 12-percent increase in the price of peanut butter. That speaks to the fact of how much more food we are having to purchase to keep our inventory at a reasonably adequate level,” Barks said.
Although the economy and unemployment rate have been improving, charity providers are seeing more customers. “What we are finding is there are a lot of people who have gotten back into the job market, but they’re not making the income that they were when they lost their job. So, they’re having to make up that gap somewhere,” Barks said.
In 2011, the Food Bank for the Heartland distributed 10million pounds of food. That marked a 10% increase from 2009.