Jul 14, 2023 - News

Des Moines food pantries set "staggering" records

Illustration of an exclamation point made out of a baguette and a dinner roll.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The metro's largest food pantry network recorded the busiest period of its nearly five decades of operation during the fiscal year that ended last month.

Why it matters: There's no sign that needs are waning, Blake Willadsen, a spokesperson for Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC), tells Axios.

  • DMARC assisted nearly 22,000 people in June, its second-highest month on record.

By the numbers: Almost 60,000 people used DMARC's 14 metro pantries during the recently completed fiscal year, Willadsen says.

  • That's up almost 40% from the year that ended in June 2022, when it served nearly 44,600 people.
  • The previous 12-month record was just over 58,700 in the 2020 calendar year.

Zoom in: A third of this year's visitors had never used the pantry network before, a stat that CEO Matt Unger described as "staggering" in a statement.

  • Cumulatively, there were nearly 252,000 visits for monthly assistance.

What's happening: The reduction or end to multiple federal programs that boosted food and housing assistance during the pandemic is driving the demand, local and national advocates told Axios recently.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed some of the nation's harshest restrictions linked with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into law this year, the Washington Post reports.

  • Iowa will spend millions in additional administrative costs over the upcoming years to take in less SNAP allocations.
  • The law's backers contend it'll cut down on fraud and ultimately save money, per the Post.

What's next: DMARC officials say the easiest ways to make a difference are volunteering at its pantries or making donations.

💰 Be smart: Giving money is generally more beneficial than donating food, as DMARC can purchase six times more food in bulk through its warehouse operations than people can generally buy in stores.


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