Feeding the people

Food pantries and other community food sources are changing how they operate as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. Schools are also working to feed students who aren't even in class. The school is providing daily lunches for all IF-A kids age 1-18 at four locations through April 9.

This week has been a difficult one for the people who rely on food banks and free or reduced-price community and school meals to feed themselves and their families. The spread of COVID-19 in Iowa has prompted the closure of schools and the cancellation of community gatherings, as well as restrictions on dining in restaurants.

But local school districts and community organizations are doing what they can to respond to the need.

Wednesday Community Meals

Throughout the year, Iowa Falls and the surrounding communities rely on Wednesday meals served at First United Methodist Church. The meals are community-prepared, and offered free of charge, although many people offer donations to help the program purchase groceries and other supplies. About 400 meals are served every week.

In the wake of the spread of COVID-19 this week, the initial plan was to continue with the meals, but offer them as carry-out or delivery only. But that changed Tuesday, and the March 18 and 25 meals have been canceled.

“People need to know that the community is there to support them,” said meal coordinator Lyn Evans. “This is new ground and we are all figuring this out as we go. We need each other, and sometimes that is a meal or a smile or knowing that someone cares. People are scared about so many things right now. We want to provide just a little bit of normal to people's lives.”

School lunches

The concern over meals is more pronounced for families who rely on the free and reduced-price school lunches during the week. The Iowa Falls-Alden schools will offer a free school lunch program similar to the one that’s offered in the summer months. It begins Wednesday, March 18, and will continue every weekday through April 9. Lunches will be packaged for a grab-and-go style meal for kids age 0-18. The district will drop lunches off at four locations in Iowa Falls, using either a school food truck or a school car. Lunch drop-offs will happen at the following places and times:

  • Julia O’Neal Park (East Rocksylvania Ave.): 10:30-10:50 a.m.
  • Rock Run Elementary (710 North St.): 11-11:20 a.m.
  • Pineview Elementary (1510 Washington Ave.): 11:30-11:50 a.m.
  • Alden Elementary (209 Center St.): 12:10-12:30 p.m.

BackPack Buddies

Throughout the school year, BackPack Buddies provides weekend food sacks for students in kindergarten through fifth grade who don’t have access to sufficient food outside school. The statewide program is funded and operated by the Food Bank of Iowa. IF-A Care Connection is another local program that provides food bags and individual food items for students in grade six through 12.

Organizers are planning to fill each sack with a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, bananas, a bag of carrots, a box of granola bars, applesauce and cereal. This may change each week as needs are determined.

Back Pack Buddies pick-up will be each Thursdayat the following locations and times:

  • Julia O’Neal Park (East Rocksylvania Ave.): 10:30-10:50 a.m.
  • Rock Run Elementary (710 North St.): 11-11:20 a.m.
  • Pineview Elementary (1510 Washington Ave.): 11:30-11:50 a.m.
  • Alden Elementary (209 Center St.): 12:10-12:30 p.m.

“I think it’s important that we work together to make food available to students and families as we are all trying to figure out what the next few weeks will look like,” said BackPack Buddies representative Kaitlyn Hoversten. “Families may become stressed financially and if we can alleviate some of that stress and worry by providing daily necessities, then I think that it is our obligation as a community.”

Additional food resources

  • The Ruth Project at the Church of the Open Bible in Iowa Falls (408 College Ave.) will hand out boxes of food and other items at the door. Program coordinator Marlys Williams said a few extra items will be included in each box to help meet the needs of families. Visits to the food bank are still limited to once per month, and there will be no extra visits for meat products and bread. The Ruth Project is open on Wednesdays, from 4 to 6 p.m. The COVID-19 changes will remain in place through the end of March, and will be re-evaluated at that time.
  • MICA (Mid Iowa Community Action) will provide curbside pick-up of food at its Hardin County Emergency Food Pantry in Iowa Falls indefinitely. All boxes will be pre-packaged and delivered to vehicles. If you’re in need of food from MICA, please call 641-648-5036 before arriving.
  • The School Food Pantry will continue to make deliveries to the pantry at Iowa Falls-Alden High School. Food will be boxed up, and organizers will contact families about the best way to get the items. Contact School Nurse Laura Thies at lthies@ifacadets.net for more information.
  • The Alden Food Pantry is putting a twist on how it delivers food to patrons. While nobody other than pantry volunteers will be allowed in the building, people needing food will fill out an order form. Volunteers will fill boxes and deliver to the door. It will remain that way until further notice. Call  the Alden Food Pantry at 515-859-7827 for further information.
  • Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A) has closed all of its senior centers and meal sites (including those in Iowa Falls and Eldora) as of Tuesday, March 17, and until further notice. Individuals who eat meals at the sites have been contacted and given the option to receive a home-delivered meal. All office locations will also be closed to the public, but will remain open to offer services. For more information about meals, transportation tickets, or other services, call 800-779-8707. All volunteers will be provided with gloves for their safety as well as the safety of the person receiving the meal. If you are willing to volunteer to deliver meals call 800-779-8707.
  • Other community food pantries can be contacted at the following phone numbers:
    • Ackley Food Pantry 641-847-2862
    • Hubbard Pantry 641-864-2625
    • Pine Lake Food Shelf (Eldora) 641-939-8186
    • Radcliffe Community Food Pantry 515-899-2327.

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