OTTUMWA — Hundreds of cars waited in rows behind Quincy Place Mall to receive boxes of food from the Food Bank of Iowa on Friday.
Police officers directed traffic in front of the mall. Volunteers behind the mall made sure cars were waiting their turns before allowing them to go, one by one, to the end of the line to receive food. No ID, proof of residency or income was required.
Food Bank of Iowa CEO Michelle Book came with her team from Des Moines to help with the distribution. Friday’s food distribution, she said, was able to help with “keeping up with moving millions of pounds of food” and “give to those in great need.”
“We move a million pounds of food every month,” Book said. “Since COVID its been significantly more than that. I’d say the need for the food has doubled. It looks like we were serving 20 to 30 percent more households than we were before.”
“There’s still a lot of poverty across the state of Iowa,” Book added. “Twelve percent of all Iowans lived in poverty before COVID. Now with the unemployment there’s a lot more people that need a little help.”
Linda Anderson and Kathie Mason, regular volunteers with the Food Bank of Iowa in Ottumwa, also believed food insecurity has increased amidst the pandemic.
“Families are home all the time now and they’re not getting food during the day,” Anderson said.
“It has increased because of unemployment,” Mason said.
Anderson and Mason helped out with the distribution because they wanted to help families in need.
“I volunteer with the food pantry at the First Presbyterian Church, so we just kind of kept right on going; signed up,” Anderson said.
“I work in the school district and I know about all the food insecurity that’s around and I’m not working right now so I thought it would be a good time to volunteer,” Mason said
Mason estimated 1,000 cars came before 10 a.m. on Friday signifying “just how much people needed this drive.”
“The thing is that it just tells you that the community is in need and in need of people to help,” she said.