From the outside looking in it is easy to see organizations like the Food Bank of Siouxland as a simple operation. An organization that brings in food through donations and distributes it back out to community members in need. Many people in the community have donated or participated in a canned food drive at some point. Even during my short time working with the Food Bank, corrections have been made to many of the misconceptions I had in my mind about what this non-profit does. Here are some of the things that I have learned during my first week at the Food Bank of Siouxland.
1. Food Bank vs Food Pantry/Agency
In the minds of many a food bank and a food pantry are the same thing, but this is not the case. Food banks are a much larger operation than a food pantry. A food bank acts more as a storage facility and distribution center used to keep the food until it is ready to be sent out to food pantries in the community. Food pantries/agencies act as a grocery store does for individuals and families in need. They work to hand out portions of the food to the public. In some cases, a food bank can have a pantry inside where community members can come and collect food, but at the Food Bank of Siouxland, they are two separate entities.
2. Perishable Food Items
Some of the most known programs that the food bank puts on are their food drives at schools and in some workplaces. Because of this I always assumed that food banks worked mostly with dried and canned goods like cereal and canned vegetables. When you actually take a step inside a food bank you'll come to find that they have both perishable and nonperishable food items available, including dairy, meat products, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables. They work to not only provide a meal to individuals in the community that need them but provide one that is nutritious and healthy.
3. Household Necessities
While it is not their main focus, food banks do often carry household products such as toilet paper, paper towels, and even feminine hygiene products for those who need them. As part of the mission to fight food insecurity, these items are up for grabs to lessen the stress for people who may not be able to fully provide for themselves in every way that they need. In some cases, people may have to choose between paying for electricity OR paying for basic necessities like food, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, etc. The food bank works to lessen the burden that comes along with making those choices.
4. You can donate food from your own garden.
During the summer months, the Food Bank of Siouxland accepts fruits and vegetable donations from local gardens. So when your harvest is bigger than expected and you don't want your extra food to go to waste, you can bring in what you have to the Food Bank of Siouxland. Your hard work in the garden all summer won't go to waste and you will be giving back to your community in the process.
5. The many ways to get involved.
When I think of a non-profit organization I think mainly of donating money which may not be a realistic option for most people. There are many ways to get involved that don’t require a monetary donation.
Donate any canned goods that you may have around the house that you can spare.
Donate your time to the many programs that the Food Bank of Siouxland has to offer. There are endless opportunities to serve including programs like the Back Pack Program: Food for Kids, sorting cans in the warehouse, helping at a fundraising event, or even giving your time to a local pantry.
Follow their social media and interact with their posts. The more people know about food banks and how they operate, the more people may take advantage of our resources or be willing to help out.
6. The Face of Food Insecurity.
One in every 10 individuals in the Siouxland community faces food insecurity. Being food insecure does not necessarily mean that a person is homeless or that they look like they are struggling. Before coming to work at the Food Bank of Siouxland I thought I had an idea about what a food insecure person looked like. That was quickly proven false. Often people who you would never suspect are struggling. It can look like someone in your office, your child’s best friend, or even your favorite teacher at school. In most cases, you wouldn’t be able to spot a food-insecure individual out of a crowd.