Food InsecurityOVERVIEW

For families to thrive in our community, everyone needs access to affordable and nutritious food. The Food Insecurity work group’s focus is to increase awareness of and access to resources and programs that address food insecurity in central Iowa. Success in reducing and, ultimately, eliminating food insecurity in our community depends on decreasing poverty and the many barriers to self-sufficiency that exist for a large percentage of our population.

Nearly 22 percent of Polk County households were food insecure at some time during 2016.

Source: Des Moines University Food Insecurity Survey, 2016

KEY PROGRAMS:

  • SNAP­­ — The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities.
  • WIC — Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) is a supplemental nutrition program for babies, children under the age of 5, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and women who have had a baby in the past 6 months.
  • Double Up Food Bucks — The program matches the value of SNAP purchases made at participating farmers markets to spend on fresh, locally grown produce.

OBJECTIVE

The objective of the Food Insecurity work group is to increase resources for and access to food and develop new and innovative approaches to addressing food insecurity and hunger in central Iowa. The community must have a variety of access points, including food pantries, meal sites, mobile pantries, food deliveries, food rescue, SNAP,  WIC, and Double Up Food Bucks to increase opportunities for low-income central Iowans to access food.

Food insecurity is a symptom of poverty. By addressing it, we can reduce stress, improve health, and provide the building blocks of a successful life for families in our community. Strategies must incorporate increasing awareness of available services and their benefits, addressing challenges to accessing food for special populations (e.g., seniors and refugees), and improving data collection practices across Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties.

FOOD INSECURITY VERSUS HUNGER

To address food insecurity, we must understand the definitions:

Food insecurity — When family members are concerned about where their groceries and meals will come from and how they will pay for them. In order to prevent anyone in the household from going hungry, the family may purchase lower-quality, less expensive, and less healthy food for the family.
Nearly 20 percent of central Iowans are food insecure.

Hunger — When family members eat less food, repeatedly experiencing the physical sensation of hunger.
Nearly 5 percent, or 28,000 central Iowans, are hungry. More than half of them are children.
Source: Des Moines University Food Insecurity Survey, 2016

FIRST-PHASE GOALS

RESULTS

1. Collect and disseminate accurate data about food insecurity and hunger in Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties.

·        Implemented a centralized, web-based data system for all DMARC food pantries.

·        Conducted the first local survey on the number of food-insecure and hungry individuals in Polk, Warren, and Dallas Counties.

2. Increase the number of people who visit pantries, community meal sites, and summer meal sites.

·        Increased the number of individuals accessing meal sites during the summer by 9.03% from 2016 to 2017, which exceeds the statewide increase of 5.3%.

3. Raise awareness about food issues in our community by convening individuals and organizations.

·        Hosted a summit with over 150 participants.

4. Build partnerships in the three-county area to address food insecurity.

·        Increased partnerships to address food insecurity through Hunger Free Dallas and Hunger Free Polk.

 

SECOND-PHASE GOALS

RESULTS

1. Eliminate hunger in Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties.

1a. Increase the number of people who visit pantries, community meal sites, and summer meal sites.

·        Extend times summer meal sites are open.

·        Re-evaluate and expand the number of summer meal sites; develop a communications plan to increase participation.

·        Add more pantries; community meal sites; summer sites in schools, parks, and
nonprofits; and mobile pantries, targeting areas in need.

·        Assess community members’ ability to access existing pantries, considering hours, transportation, offerings, etc.

2. Increase the number of eligible central Iowans accessing food assistance programs.

·        Identify barriers to accessing SNAP and WIC through surveys, interviews, etc.

·        Develop training/video/toolkit aimed at key audiences about how to access food assistance and the benefits of accessing assistance.

·        Consider addressing SNAP and WIC separately.

·        Distribute the training/video/toolkit widely to target audiences.

·        Assess feasibility and develop a directory of existing food-rescue partnerships.

·        Identify potential new partnerships and develop communications and outreach plan.

3. Increase the number of organizations participating in a food-rescue initiative where donated food from restaurants, caterers, and other food-service providers is distributed to people in need through local social-service organizations.

·        Assess feasibility and develop a directory of existing food-rescue partnerships.

·        Identify potential new partnerships and develop communications and outreach plan.

4. Collect and disseminate accurate data about food insecurity and hunger in Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties.

4a. Increase the effectiveness and accuracy of county-wide pantry data.

 

·        Assess existing data-collection systems in Polk, Dallas, and Warren Counties.

·        Identify opportunities for increased collaboration and how to better share data.

·        Create summary report of existing data and gaps in data collection.

5. Collect and disseminate second annual survey of hunger and food insecurity in central Iowa.

·        Collect survey responses using same tool and methodology as 2016 with added demographics.

·        Share data with public, policymakers, funders, etc.

6. Increase awareness of the importance of the food safety net for central Iowans. Compile messaging, stories, and data to use in
communications with decision makers.

·        Complete environmental scan of existing research, data, and messaging about effective safety nets.

·        Develop key talking points, one-pagers, and stories that demonstrate the need for all elements of the safety net.

·        Develop strategy for outreach/communications plan and develop target list for communications.

·        Meet with key decision-makers and share messages.

 

Food for thought

Feeding America surveyed 2,300 of Iowa’s approximately 530,000 food pantry clients for the Iowa report of the 2014 Hunger in America Study.

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Food for Thought

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