In summer’s high need, center starts new food drive amid low donations

BY TYLER LYON | JULY 20, 2009 7:15 AM

Long summer days. School still a month away. That means depleted pantries at home, and some families in the county are seeking assistance in filling them.

Today kicks off the Iowa City Crisis Center’s Thanksgiving in July program, aimed at gathering food for families in need across the county.

Compared with last year, requests for food donations at the local Crisis Center increased 27 percent since last year during winter and spring. Various factors contribute to the need, from the academic calendar to last summer’s natural disaster.

Mark Pedersen, the director of volunteer services at the Crisis Center, said the countywide program was started in 1998 by Mercy Hospital executive chef Ron Hall to help families outside of the winter months.

“Our donations go down in the summer as we get further from the holiday season.” Pedersen said.

But despite the lower supply, demand from families goes up during the summer because parents have to provide more food and care for their children while they’re out of school.

Then there’s the economic recession. Though Iowa City is known for the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, some people are jobless.

“We have had people come in saying they’ve lost their jobs,” Pedersen said.

Judy McRoberts, who has volunteered at the North Liberty Community Pantry for five years, said she doesn’t see a decrease in donations in the summer months but agreed the demand goes up because of the number of children not getting lunches at school.

While Crisis Center officials don’t have an estimation for the number of people who will turn out for this week’s donations, Pedersen said officials hope to reach their goal of 35,000 pounds of food from the county, a 10 percent increase over last year.

Pedersen stressed this goal is just a number the center wants to work for. Families will still receive donations regardless of the amount of contributions to the Crisis Center.

“It’s not a goal based on need,” he said.

The center also expects to receive more donations once the school starts up, because many student organizations will host food drives in the early fall.

Donations can be dropped off at both Iowa City and Coralville Hy-Vee locations as well as businesses in downtown Iowa City.

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