After setting multiple records during the pandemic, the Food Bank of Iowa is setting yet more records this summer for the number of people using its pantries.

Annette Hacker is the spokeswoman for the Des Moines-based agency that serves Iowans who are facing food insecurity. “Food Bank of Iowa set records — and these are not the kind of records that we like to set — for the most individuals served in our history in May and then again in June,” Hacker says. “We are finalizing July numbers next week, the first full week of September, but the trend looks to be the same.”

It was hoped food demand would slack off once the panic over coronavirus began to wane. Hacker says, “The level of need we’re seeing is not only higher than it was during the height of COVID but the highest we’ve seen in our 40-year history.”

While most businesses that were closed by the pandemic have long since reopened, other factors are now making life challenging for many thousands of Iowans. “The economy is tough right now. Groceries are high. Everything is higher, we’re seeing that, like rent,” Hacker says, “and so many of us are one life event, one catastrophe away from needing help with food, whether that’s a car repair, a medical issue, losing your job.”

Some may have a perception that the people who use food pantries are homeless, unemployed or both, but Hacker says that’s just not the case. “The vast majority of folks served by our 700 partners in 55 counties are working,” Hacker says, “they’re working not one job but sometimes two or three with no benefits and they just can’t make ends meet.”

As demand rises, she says food donations have dropped from restaurants and grocery stores and food is costing the agency more to buy now than ever before. The Food Bank served nearly 122,000 individuals in May, while the number exceeded 135,000 in June, an all-time high, while July’s numbers are projected to be equally as high.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)