Michelle Book (File photo)

The holidays aren’t so happy for Iowans who are dealing with economic hardships and hunger, as the state’s largest food bank is seeing records for demand set month after month.

Michelle Book, CEO and president of the Des Moines-based Food Bank of Iowa, says there’s still an impact being felt from the pandemic. “Pair that with the incredible inflation we’ve seen, and then a decrease in federal support for many of these families that are living right at or below the poverty level,” Book says. “So we have many of our pantry partners across our 55 counties have seen double, triple and some of them four times the need than a year ago at this time.”

The organization just marked its 40th year of service and saw an increasing need throughout 2022. “May was a record breaker in 40 years, and then June broke that record, July broke it, August broke it, and so forth as we’ve gone into fall,” Book says. “We have served close to 150,000 individuals and 53,000 households every month for the past six months.”

They’re seeing young couples and their children using the services, and she notes that people typically don’t enter the pantry network unless there’s been a significant change in their world. “Maybe a car repair, they’ve lost their job, their refrigerator doesn’t work,” Book says. “Most people are using the pantry maybe three or four times a year. They’re not there every day that the door opens, but they’re there when there’s some sort of catastrophe within their household where they just don’t have money left over to pay for food.”

A record two-million pounds of food was distributed during October, the food bank’s highest-ever rate in a month’s time. Book says donations are welcome and monetary gifts go farthest as the food bank can buy in bulk.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)