Whether you are a Hawkeyes or a Cyclones fan, Iowa Hospice is encouraging all community members to donate food items towards their team of choice in a food drive today at the Webster City Hy-Vee. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Iowa Hospice will be accepting a variety of food, baby and personal care items that will go to Upper Des Moines Opportunity and Trinity Lutheran Church food banks.
This is the third year that Iowa Hospice is hosting a food drive on the day of the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game, according to Director of Iowa Hospice Kerry Croskey. Over 20 grocery stores will be participating in Iowa and the team with the most products donated will win.
Croskey said over 20,000 items were donated in total last year. That number has grown every year Iowa Hospice has held these drives, and Croskey said she hopes that will continue.
Hamilton County Upper Des Moines Opportunity Outreach Specialist Jamie Ragland inspects the meat freezer in their food pantry located in their office at the All Cultures Equal Building.
Webster City is a new site for the drive and Croskey said donations will be split between the two food banks. She said the drive promotes Iowa Hospice's focus on giving back to the communities they serve.
"We encourage the community of Webster City to make a donation for their favorite team, whether they're rooting for Iowa or Iowa State. The local community and food pantries will benefit," Croskey said. "It's a fun event and it's great team building for our staff in a way that gives back to the community."
One of those food pantries is run by Upper Des Moines Opportunity in the All Cultures Equal building on the east side of town. UDMO covers 12 counties, and Outreach Director Mary Ohrtman covers Webster, Wright, Humbolt and Hamilton counties. She said UDMO runs the largest food bank in Hamilton County. Year to date, from Oct. 1 through July, the Hamilton County branch of UDMO has served 2,042 individuals and 762 families.
Community members in need can use the food pantry once every three months. UDMO offers food from canned goods to meat and donated eggs and produce from farmer's markets. They also offer non-food items such as deodorant and shampoo.
Ohrtman said the summer has reduced their stores of food. Children being home for summer and with multiple early release days due to heat, more food at home is ingested. The same could be true in the winter due to snow days. She said, for UDMO in general, there has been a huge increase in need for keeping food in their pantries. Some pantries have been reduced to almost nothing. Food and gas prices, as well as the drought, have Ohrtman and the whole of UDMO concerned.
"It just seems like every week I go to the grocery store, prices get higher and higher," Ohrtman said. "I think that it's affecting everyone, even people that are not utilizing our services who want to donate might have some difficulties themselves because of inflation."
UDMO Outreach Specialist for Hamilton County Jamie Ragland added that she has seen a noticeable increase in the need for baby items.
"We don't really have a lot of baby food, formula or non-food items," Ragland said. "When I started working here there wasn't a demand for it but now we have a lot of people asking for baby items."
These increases in need are particularly distressing for Ohrtman, because UDMO and similar organizations rely on donations, volunteers and several grants to keep their doors open and their shelves stocked. In their Hamilton office, Ragland, who is full time and a part-time worker staff the facility. Ohrtman said UDMO can't support the community without support from others.
"When Electrolux closed, this community pulled together very strongly and I believe we need people to come together again and donate because so many are jobless and need food. We need the community to help us help them," Ohrtman said.
Flyers at Hy-Vee will be given out tomorrow listing the desired food items for both the UDMO and Trinity Lutheran Church food pantries. For more information, contact Jamie Ragland at (515) 832-6451.