A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows between 2011 and 2013, roughly 1 in 9 Iowans experienced “food insecurity” — meaning they went without food or ate food that’s cheaper, but with low nutritional value, just to have something to eat.
Cory Berkenes, director of the Iowa Food Bank Association, says thousands of Iowans have to choose between buying food and paying bills. “They have to pay the gas bill, the electric bill, buy prescriptions, and pay health bills. That’s the trouble that we see. They have to make those decisions,” Berkenes says.
While the report shows 11.9 percent of Iowans often go without meals because they lack the resources, Iowa is doing better than the national average of 14.6 percent. Berkenes credits the generosity of Iowans who help stock the shelves at the eight food banks around the state. “I think a lot of people really believe we need to take a stand against hunger and we need to take for our friends and neighbors,” Berkenes says.
According to U.S.D.A. figures, the level of food insecurity in Iowa has remained mostly unchanged over the past decade. The new report, covering 2011-2013, found the highest level of food insecurity in Arkansas (21.2%) and the lowest level in North Dakota (8.7%).