OTTUMWA — Hard working residents, the elderly and those in need shouldn't have to go hungry. Nor should their children, said members of Growing Wapello Together.
"One in four children do not get enough food at home in Wapello County," said Jan Swinton, one of the organizers of the Food Security Action Summit in Ottumwa.
"This is not some initiative funded by a federal grant or a state grant," said GWT director and food consultant Amber Payne.
Those funds result in the government saying, "here's what you need to do, no matter where you are." Community boosters have seen those restrictions before.
"Now, the community is saying, 'This is what we want, this is our priority,'" she said.
Many of the participants were already involved in feeding the hungry: food bank board members, a charitable foundation president, educators from several districts. Others are parents who have been through ups and downs in their lives.
This week, the Food Security Action Summit revealed the priorities of members after those members had met weekly the previous month.
"This feels like the grand finale," Payne told nearly 100 participants at this week's summit. "But it's really the beginning. A lot of you have said, 'We can talk [about hunger], but we want to DO something.'"
So what are the issues that keep healthy food off the table? Transportation difficulty (or access) is one problem, group members say. Awareness of what is healthy, and how to cook it is another issue. And the expense of buy good, fresh food compared to low-quality, highly processed food.
Not every "food insecure" person is starving, however.
As part of the education component, members learned that "food security" in Iowa doesn't just mean filling rumbling bellies. It means connecting them with enough healthy food that they can live an active, healthy life.