When you look beyond the shiny tinsel, bells and lights, what the Christmas season truly celebrates is the spirit of giving.

Just a few days before Christmas, I was invited on a tour of the Food Bank of Iowa’s warehouse in Des Moines. The warehouse was bustling, with volunteers packaging donations from holiday food drives and making room in the coolers for a shipment of frozen turkeys from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program.

(The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation University of Iowa Athletic Department just announced a special donation of $21,500 through the America Needs Farmers (ANF) initiative. Read more here.)

The need for food assistance is great not just during the holiday season, but year round. One in eight Iowans are food secure; and one in five Iowa children doesn’t have enough to eat, according to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” study (http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx).

During our tour, I learned quite a few interesting tidbits about the Food Bank of Iowa that I also think are worth sharing.

  •  The Food Bank of Iowa’s warehouse distributes food to 285 partner agencies in 42 counties in central Iowa, stretching from the Minnesota to the Missouri borders. An additional 13 counties are served through a redistribution organization, the Food Bank of Southern Iowa. Last year, the Food Bank of Iowa distributed more than 9 million pounds of food.

  •  In addition to the holiday food drives, I was impressed by the number of corporate donors to the Food Bank of Iowa. Iowa-based Anderson Erickson Dairy and Sparboe eggs are regular donors, as are Hy-Vee, Wal-Mart and PDI, a refrigerated product distributor in Ankeny.

  •  The Food Bank of Iowa now runs 12 “mobile” pantries, or trucks, that travel to small communities in central Iowa. The trucks provide food to people who otherwise would have to drive 30 miles or so to the nearest food pantry.

  •  A new focus in 2014 is to provide Iowans with healthy, fresh produce during the summer growing season. The Food Bank of Iowa is partnering with the United Way of Central Iowa and Des Moines area business on a new Giving Garden project this spring. Farm Bureau employees are planting a Giving Garden at their West Des Moines headquarters to help supply fresh produce to local food pantries.

To find out how you can donate or volunteer your time at the Food Bank of Iowa, visit www.foodbankofiowa.org.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is the senior features writer for Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.