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Neighbors Growing Together | May 21, 2018

Johnson County food pantries see big need this summer

Donations sought for Thanksgiving in July
By Madison Arnold, The Gazette | Jul 03, 2017

IOWA CITY — Unlike school children who need lunch, “hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation” in Johnson County.

The Crisis Center of Johnson County, the Coralville Community Food Pantry and the North Liberty Community Pantry are reporting increased need this summer, mainly because children are out of school and no longer receiving free or reduced-price meals. Also, donations to food pantries decrease in the summer months.

“We prepare (by) purchasing additional food, specifically for families who have school-aged kids,” said John Boller, executive director of the Coralville pantry, adding the pantry does that for all school breaks. “We do plan ahead, and we seek funding additionally for that program, which comes through various grants.”

Boller said the Coralville pantry is seeing its highest usage ever, with visits increasing by almost 20 percent from April to June. At the end of June, the pantry had seen 817 total visits in the month, compared to April’s 675.

In North Liberty, executive director Kaila Rome said 750 visits a month is average for the pantry, but that May and June were trending around 820 visits.

Rome said people typically think about donating food around Christmas. Families that donate also face increased child-care expenses in the summer, which cause them to skip donating, she said.

“This year we’ve seen more visits than any year before, so we’re just doing the best we can to provide as much food as possible for those visits,” Rome said.

Sara Sedlacek, communications and development director for the Crisis Center in Iowa City, said the center’s May numbers were “significantly higher” than average, or almost 500 more visits than the previous month. That’s why food pantries hold a Thanksgiving in July food drive and fundraiser campaign, she said.

The Crisis Center, she added, hopes to raise an additional $20,000 and 20,000 pounds of food in July.

“It’s just really important that we have donations from the community, whether that be food or financial donations,” Sedlacek said. “We just really try to get the word out all month long and remind people that we’re still here. Even though they’re preparing for vacations and doing fun summer stuff, there are still a lot of people in need in our community.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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