The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

September 3, 2013

For a few dollars more


"I've had to use a food pantry," she said.

One community service agency in a nearby county didn't want their pantry to join with the food bank in receiving food. They fear they'll be stuck with a bunch of bulk food items no one wants.

"I was able to explain to her the stuff I picked up at the food pantry in Albia and how it helped me," Morrow said.

She's also not as judgmental as some other volunteers might be. But there are limits. A family that seems to have money for cigarettes or cable television but can't buy shoes for their child seems pretty hard to defend, she said. Abbott acknowledged that caring people still get frustrated when they hear about the rare individual who takes advantage of the system or wastes money they could have spent on groceries.

"There are people who make enough but they blow it at the casino. Still, the kids shouldn't have to suffer. The kids need food."

Most of the people who use a food pantry are genuinely deserving of help, he emphasized. Morrow referred to them as "the working poor," which she says encompasses a large number of everyday Americans.

"These are the people who may make enough money, but they run into trouble," Abbott said, listing sudden medical expenses or car repair bills as being enough to drain any savings they had, as well as draining grocery money for some families.

September is Hunger Action Month, Abbott said, explaining that the Iowa Food Bank Association and Gov. Terry Branstad are working to inspire Iowans "to take action to help … people who are food insecure." This is a good time to tell their story, Abbott said, using activities like the card scanning at the grocery store.

"We need to build awareness of why we're here, what we do and why we do it," he said.

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark

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