The Ottumwa Courier

November 27, 2013

Battling hunger -- and each other?

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — A husband and wife are ready to fight each other, but it's for a good cause.

"They're going to compete as to who can collect the most food," said Adie Morrow, an AmeriCorps volunteer helping at the Southern Iowa Food Bank.

She had met with the Richardsons, Jeannie and Dave, two business professionals, separately as she traveled the town. The food bank volunteer was looking for a place to put a food collection barrel. Between the three of them, they came up with the idea to have two barrels and a family food feud.

One is going in Jeannie's store. She owns and operates Check it Out, located at 512 Hancock St. (near the YMCA), and her husband Dave is the general manager of Aaron's, 933 Quincy Ave near the Quincy Place Mall.

"She told me, 'I love to compete with my husband,'" Morrow said Monday.

"We're battling," confirmed Jeannie Richardson on Tuesday.

If she wins, said Dave, it'll be because he let her. No, said Jeannie, it'll be because if necessary, she'll run out to the supermarket and buy a barrel full of groceries. They tried to say they were kidding but acknowledged they really are competitive.

"We'd get really competitive with bowling," said Dave.

"Even when I was pregnant," said Jeannie.

"Both our pictures are still on the wall at the bowling alley for high scores," added Dave.

Jeannie and her staff decorated their food collection barrel to make it more inviting. Morrow had said she was supposed to keep that quiet so the wife's store had an advantage. The secret didn't last long.

"My husband saw it today," Jeannie said. "He asked me if I would decorate his, and I said, 'absolutely not.'"

Then she laughed.

Morrow said what's funny to her is that whoever's customers help them "gain the most pounds of food" wins the friendly race.

"Most people want to shed pounds during the holidays," she said.

"It kind of gives a personal context to [the effort] to help feed the food insecure," said Neil Abbott, executive director of the food bank.

Nearly a third of those who don't have enough to eat are children, and, he said, the elderly make up another large portion of those without enough to eat. Neither he nor Morrow ventured a guess who would win the competition by the Dec. 14 end date.

"Of course," added Morrow, "the big winner is the Food Bank of Southern Iowa and the 13 counties in southern Iowa [it] serves."

— To follow reporter Mark Newman on Twitter, see @CourierMark