Some Iowa food banks and pantries are changing the way they operate to help people get access to food during the pandemic.

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo packs separate boxes with frozen and non-perishable food and distributes them to local pantries. Executive director Barb Prather says people drive up to the pantry and give their name, address and the number of people in their household.

“Everybody gets a nonperishable box that weighs about 40 pounds and then a perishable box that weighs similar and then we put that directly in their car after we’ve taken their registration,” Prather says. “They don’t have to sign anything, they just have to give us that information.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Prather says families could come to the on-site pantry and choose what food they wanted. In northwest Iowa, the Food Bank of Siouxland distributed more than 380,000 pounds of food to local pantries and homeless shelters last month, breaking its all-time record from last October.

Siouxland executive director Linda Scheid says people who have never before been food insecure are struggling now, because of COVID-19. “It’s connected to individuals that don’t have a paycheck this Friday or next Friday,” Scheid says. “It’s connected to families that are at home, eating three meals a day, have their children home because they’re not in school, three meals a day. All of a sudden they just don’t have the wherewithal to go buy everything they need and take care of themselves and their families.”

The Food Bank of Siouxland is encouraging pantries they work with to pack boxes of food and place them into peoples’ cars to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)