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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 18, 2018

Food bank in Ottumwa merges with larger bank

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Jan 05, 2018

The Food Bank of Southern Iowa announced last month that beginning in 2018, it would merge with the Food Bank of Iowa, which would expand its access to food resources across the state.

The Food Bank of Southern Iowa is based in Ottumwa while the Food Bank of Iowa is based in Des Moines. The FBOSI will retain its staff, facilities and partnerships.

The FBOSI served 13 counties in southern Iowa, including Jefferson and Van Buren counties. The agencies it served included:

 

Jefferson County

The Lord’s Cupboard

Community Child Care Center

Fairfield Senior Citizen Center

Milestones Area Agency on Aging

 

Van Buren County

Farmington Food Pantry

Farmington Senior Center

Heavenly Hands

Job’s Closet

Milton Senior Center

Milestones in Keosauqua, Milton and Farmington

 

Joe Schulz has been hired as the new southern branch manager for the Food bank of Iowa to manage the work started by the FBOSI. He said the two food banks have been partners since 2012, and described the merger as a “natural thing.”

He said the partner agencies in Jefferson and Van Buren counties will benefit from the merger because they will be able to call upon more resources than before, such as ordering online from an expanded food inventory.

“Partner agencies might not notice the merger right away,” Schulz said. “As we move forward, we’ll hand select partner agencies to introduce to online ordering.

Schulz said one problem with the old way of doing things was that local food pantries did not have up-to-date information about the supplies in the food bank. They might think there was still ground beef or chicken quarters left, but when they went to pick up the phone, they learned the inventory had already been depleted.

An online inventory can tell them exactly what’s in the warehouse at a given moment, and once an item is ordered, it is immediately removed from the inventory.

Schulz said keeping the food pantries well stocked is key, because their employees and volunteers know the community’s needs inside and out.

“Jefferson County might have different needs from Wayne County,” he said. “The pantries are the boots on the ground, and we’re simply a resource for those agencies.”

Schulz said the No. 1 reason for the merger was buying power.

Instead of the food bank of Iowa having to buy half a semi-load of green beans, now it can buy a full-load because it’s serving more agencies.

It can get a better price-per-pound doing that, and pass those savings onto food pantries so they’re not having to pay anymore than absolutely necessary.

“It’s difficult to speak on how the price of things will change, but we don’t see them going up,” Schulz said. “We already saw an explosion of items in our warehouse getting ready for the Jan. 1 date. Instead of spending energy on food drives, now we’re getting better racking systems. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen the warehouse as full as it is now.”

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