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Engineering Staff Helps Fight Hunger

Posted on November 2nd, 2012
ESAC members Jennifer Rumping and Sandy Gerard with food donated at Hy-Vee.

ESAC members Jennifer Rumping and Sandy Gerard with food donated at Hy-Vee.

Nationwide, demand at food banks is increasing. But as the recession drags on, some Midwest food banks report flagging donations. A group of University of Iowa staff are part of a local partnership working to make sure that doesn’t happen in Johnson County.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen organized “Stock the Pantry,” a food drive to benefit three area food pantries: the Crisis Center, North Liberty Community Pantry, and the Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry. Several other area organizations participated, including the University of Iowa Engineering Staff Advisory Council (ESAC), 10 area elementary schools, and Hy-Vee.

“Given that we are entering a time when people have less money because of the cost to heat their homes, we wanted to make sure the food pantries had enough food to fulfill the need,” says Gabe Aguirre, general manager of the Press-Citizen.

The food drive was part of national Make a Difference Day on Oct. 27. ESAC encouraged faculty, staff, and students in the College of Engineering to bring nonperishable food items to work Oct. 24–26, and volunteers at area Hy-Vee stores encouraged shoppers to pick up an extra item or two to donate as they did their grocery shopping. All the donations went to area food pantries.

Melissa Ward and other ESAC members joined Press-Citizen staff to volunteer at area Hy-Vee stores on Make a Difference Day, greeting shoppers and telling them about the project. Ward says it was a rewarding way to spend a Saturday morning. “Not only is it gratifying to donate your time, but this particular event opened the act of giving to others in the community.”

ESAC member Jackie Hartling Stolze says many of the shoppers were remarkably generous. “Some people gave us full bags of food, even though we only asked for one or two items,” she says. “One man gave us a whole bag full of small tubes of toothpaste. Everyone needs toothpaste, but it’s something most of us wouldn’t think of.”

Aguirre says their goal was an ambitious one: to gather 100,000 pounds of food, enough to supply the three food pantries for a month. Although the effort fell short of the goal, the volunteers still amassed 32,000 pounds of food — enough to make a big difference for hungry families in Johnson County.

Aguirre says it’s easy to see how important the food pantries are — just stop and talk to a few people who use the service. “They wouldn’t have enough food to eat without the help of the pantries,” he says.

Read more: Stock the Pantry, Engineering Staff Advisory Council

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