With Thanksgiving behind us now, Iowa food pantries are bracing for the winter ahead and a dramatic boost in demand as the year-end holidays near.

Matt Unger, CEO of the Des Moines Area Religious Council, says while pandemic-era assistance, like extra SNAP benefits and increased unemployment benefits, helped for a while, it didn’t address the underlying problems with food insecurity.
“We have this growth now, and the number of folks that are needing this kind of assistance, and we don’t have the same spotlight on the issue that we did during the pandemic,” Unger says, “so I think there’s the risk that we’ve got some complacency.” So far this month, Unger says DMARC has helped 14,000 individuals.

Zuli Garcia is the founding president of Knock and Drop Iowa, the first-ever Latino food pantry in Des Moines’s metro, which provides culturally-specific foods. Garcia says higher food prices are having an impact and lately, they’ve had to dip into reserves to make sure those in need have enough to take home.

“That’s what our fear is, that we’re going to get to the point where unfortunately, we’re going to have to start turning people away because things are getting expensive, not just out there for everyone, but even for the nonprofits,” Garcia says. “We can’t find the food that’s needed to be able to feed families.”

Garcia says for just one day of the pantry being open, Knock and Drop spent $4,800 on food for 387 families. Officials with the Food Bank of Iowa say they are continuing to see historic need from communities around the state, serving about 150,000 individuals each month since spring.

(By Catherine Wheeler, Iowa Public Radio)