The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

April 23, 2013

Teach a man to fish ... Leaders to create food insecurity consortium to tackle increasing problem

(Continued)

"The great thing about the revolving food fund is the money's always going to be there, so the food is always going to be there," Abbott said.

But this is about so much more than just food insecurity, everyone noted.

"The families I work with, their issues are related to food as well as employment," said Jeff Hasley of the Southern Iowa Economic Development Association (SIEDA). "I'm interested in moving that needle. Instead of giving a fish to a family, it's about teaching them how to fish."

The meeting included school principals, religious leaders, grocery store directors, elected officials and more.

"I think we could be a good fit," said Christina Schark, executive director of the Southern Iowa Mental Health Center. "You have to treat the whole person and body. It's hard for mental health to get better if you're hungry or need shelter or clothing or a job."

Ottumwa Housing Authority director Dan Stroda said he also sees hunger in his line of work. Out of the nearly 3,000 renting in Ottumwa, 20-25 percent of those are low income and need OHA assistance.

Monday was the first of three meetings designed to hone in on what people and organizations need to be involved and combined, what they can do to search for solutions to food insecurity and the larger related problems.

"I don't know how those in need do it, quite frankly," Little said. "They learn how to catch a bus, get to a free medical clinic, what to do when their utilities are shut off. Every penny we have will not fix the problem we have and make us go upstream. But let's check our biases and turf at the door and come together."

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