Pop-up pantry sees fewer visitors after other food programs address food insecurity in community

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With two weeks under their belts of delivering food bags and providing hot meals to seniors in the community, the City of Kalona saw a smaller crowd than usual at the pop-up pantry on Saturday, Jan. 16. As of Monday evening, the city had delivered 240 bags of food and 260 hot meals to seniors in Kalona.

“We’ve made a lot of food available and I think we’ve seen one of the weeks where it just didn’t culminate to have a lot of need that particular weekend,” city administrator Ryan Schlabaugh said. “We’re in a good position, we just saw a week where the numbers aren’t where they typically have been and that’s OK.”

Schlabaugh praised the city staff, including Matt Jacoby and the public works staff, for their dedication to the food project. The pop-up pantries are held in the public works building, which means a significant amount of space is taken up by stored food.

“It’s been good for our staff to be engaged in this type of public service and everyone has really embraced it, but it’s a lot of extra work that at times makes other jobs harder,” Schlabaugh said. “The [public works staff] have been great at working with us, even when they go to change a blade on a piece of equipment and there’s Cheerios in the way. They’ve done it and they’ve done it well.”

The city has been working with Goodwin Senior Dining in Wellman to deliver hot meals straight to seniors’ homes three days a week. Generally, the food is picked up and brought to Kalona by 11 a.m. and then delivery routes are finished before noon.

“Wellman senior dining, their group has been fantastic to work with,” Schlabaugh said. “We’ve had to make some changes on the fly with numbers and trying to accommodate people who call in last minute and the people at Goodwin have been great in helping us achieve this.”

While the hot meal program was originally only slated to run through February — when it was determined there was the most need — Schlabaugh said the city will look forward into expanding the program further.

“It’s a good program and how we do it going forward, after we get through Feburary, we’ll see. It has some merit to be able to do something,” he said. “What that something is, we’ll have to work with [Goodwin Senior Dining] and coordinate some volunteers and hopefully be able to provide that service to our residents.”

After the lower-than-average turnout at the pop-up pantry, however, the city will take a closer look at the needs of the community to make sure those needs are being met in the best way possible.

“Next month we’ll have to reevaluate the city’s position on it going forward with all of the service programs we have going on, whether it’s the bag program, the hot meals and the pop-up pantries,” Schlabaugh said. “They’ve been ultra-successful but we’ll just have to see if that need is still there in the community, if that’s where we want to focus our efforts. We’ll ask the council how they would like to see us moving forward.”

 

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