Aug 22, 2022 - News

Des Moines' suburban food pantries break records with rising visitors

Line chart showing the monthly change in residents served by food pantries in Des Moines from January 2021 to July 2022. Food pantries in suburban areas consistently served more residents than those in urban areas.

Food insecurity is increasing in the metro, but some of the biggest recent increases have surprisingly come from Des Moines' suburbs, according to data from Des Moines Area Religious Council.

Why it matters: The issue is touching many families — even in places where it's not visible.

By the numbers: Des Moines residents still make up the majority of DMARC's pantry users — 69% as of July 2022.

  • But in the last year, visits from suburban residents have jumped the most dramatically — more than 60% increase from Jan. 2021 to now.

Zoom in: Clive residents had the biggest change in visitors between July 2021 and 2022, growing from 134 people to 413.

  • Johnston residents broke their record for most pantry visits in a month. In July 2022 there were 483 visits compared to 431 in 2019.

The intrigue: Many of the suburban pantry visitors were working and non-white with multiple young kids. A lot of them are first-time pantry users, Elzinga said.

Between the lines: Visits were already rising to record-breaking numbers in 2019 in the metro. But pandemic benefits, including supplemental SNAP, helped families make ends meet. Those benefits have all ended now, driving the influx, Elzinga said.

  • Add on the burden of rising costs of food and gas and that's very difficult for families.

The big picture: Racial and ethnic diversity is changing the Des Moines metro with a fast-growing refugee and immigrant population with their own financial challenges.

  • Acknowledging that can help understand food insecurity in the suburbs.
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