The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) last week announced a donation of $100,000 to the Iowa Food Bank Association (IFBA) to help address the growing need for food across the state during the COVID-19 crisis. 

In addition to the $100,000 donation, IFBF will provide a match up to $500 to any of Iowa’s 100 county Farm Bureaus that have made a donation to their local food bank from March 1, 2020, through April 24, 2020. The locally raised funds will either go to the food pantry in that county, if one exists, or to fund a mobile food pantry that serves the county.

For each dollar donated, the food banks will be able to distribute five-and-a-half meals to Iowans in need, according to the IFBA. That means Farm Bureau’s donation will provide at least 550,000 meals for Iowans struggling through this challenging time.   

“We recognize this is an especially difficult time for so many Iowans,” said IFBF President Craig Hill. “Iowa farmers have always pulled together to help their communities out during challenging times, and the Farm Bureau family is happy to do what we can to help bridge the food gap in our communities during this crisis.” 

The need for food is clearly there, said Linda Gorkow, IFBA executive director.   

“COVID-19 has significantly strained our resources and amplified the demand for food in every corner of the state,” Gorkow said. “This generous gift from the Iowa Farm Bureau comes at a crucial time and will make a tremendous impact helping us meet our increase in demand for food assistance across the state.”

A growing need

According to the IFBA, with several businesses temporarily closed, leaving people without work, food banks and the food bank network of 1,200 nonprofit partner agencies in Iowa are seeing up to four times the number of new requests for food assistance since the pandemic began. 

The IFBA and its member food banks are 99% funded through private and public donations and are completely reliant upon the generosity of Iowans to provide meals to all areas in every county throughout Iowa. 

The six regional nonprofit food banks serving Iowa include River Bend Foodbank, Food Bank of Iowa, Northeast Iowa Food Bank, Food Bank for the Heartland, Food Bank of Siouxland and HACAP Food Reservoir.

Along with the need for monetary and food donations, the food banks are facing several other challenges during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly a significant decline in the number of volunteers needed to stock shelves and package meals. Most food bank volunteers are in the ‘at-risk’ category for COVID-19 and haven't been able to assist, Gorkow said. 

The food banks also need boxes to package family meals and information on locating distribution centers that are accessible to rural residents.  

Farmers stepping up

Many Farm Bureau members in Iowa have also stepped up to help their neighbors in need.

Brad Farmer, a Mitchell County Farm Bureau member, decided to donate a hog to help feed area families in need. “I was chitchatting with my dad in the shop one day about what we could do to help people who had lost jobs after restaurants and other business were closed down, and we came up with donating a hog,” he said last week.

After arranging for the hog to be processed at a local locker and distributed to local families, Farmer’s posts on social media about the need prompted several neighbors to contact him about buying hogs so the meat could also be donated to families in need. “It’s just remarkable how close knit our community really is and how people want to care for each other at a time like this,” he said.

Cress Van Wyngarden of the Marion County Farm Bureau has been keeping his 3D printer running 24 hours a day to make face shield components that he’s donating to hospitals in Monroe and Davis counties. 

The hospitals, Van Wyngarden said, had materials to make the face shields, but were having trouble finding the parts that connect to the shield and fit around a person’s head. Using information supplied by the hospitals, the farmer went to work.

So far, Van Wyngarden has delivered dozens of the components to the hospitals in Davis and Monroe counties and is also working on face shield components for the hospital in Pella.

“I’m really happy to have the equipment and ability to help slow the spread of the disease and aid our health care workers,” Van Wyngarden said.