Updated: Aug 10, 2022
The Food Bank of Siouxland, just like anywhere else, has its own set of terms and vocabulary. As a complex organization that operates in a variety of different ways within the community, there is understandably a bit of confusion about requirements and where you can actually go to get food assistance. Understanding some of these terms can help you to navigate your way through obtaining food assistance or helping someone in need.
1. Food Bank
The most common misconception about Food Banks is that they are the exclusive location to receive food assistance. It’s a fair misunderstanding as those who have never needed those services have no reason to know the difference between a food bank and the agencies that distribute food.
Think of a food bank as a warehouse or a storage facility for your favorite grocery store and food pantries as a grocery store. You would never go shopping at the warehouse, would you? The concept is the same here, customers go to the store whenever they want food, and those who need additional assistance go to one of our partner pantries and collect food.
Agencies are our partners in fighting hunger in Siouxland. The Food Bank of Siouxland distributes food from our warehouse to programs like The Soup Kitchen, The Sunnybrook Hope Center, and the Food 4 You Mobile Pantry. These are the agencies that distribute food out to the Siouxland community. There are 3 types of agencies that the Food Bank of Siouxland offers:
1. Traditional- Operated by individuals in the community who have a location they can operate out of. Many are located in churches and other non-profit organizations such as the Morningside Lutheran Church and Community Action Agency. The operators of the pantries set their hours and there are 2 ways these types of programs can offer food.
The “My Choice” model allows families or individuals to choose only what they will eat, similar to an in-store shopping experience. Volunteers will set up the food and assist those in need.
Pre-prepped bags are another way that a pantry serves individuals. Everyone coming through the line will get the same type of food and the same quantity depending on household needs.
2. Mobile- Mobile Pantries go to locations called “food deserts” to help get food to those who may not otherwise be able to make it to a grocery store or a pantry throughout the week. These areas typically have little access to grocery stores in their areas. The goal is to make getting food easier for those who may not have a consistent form of transportation.
3. On-Site Feeding Programs- On-site feeding programs take the food provided by the Food Bank of Siouxland and use it to create a meal that people can eat on the spot. The most common example of this model is the Soup Kitchen.
3. Food Insecurity
Food insecure people do not know where their next meal is coming from whether it be a long-term situation or a one-time thing. To most, the meaning of this term is pretty clear. What people don’t understand is that there is no face to food insecurity.
Emma is a 35 year old newly single mom of three. She just moved to Sioux City and is working on getting settled. She moved here with just her kids, clothes, and her car. After getting settled with an apartment and paying for all her fees and bills, she has realized that she now does not have enough money to pay for food for herself and her kids.
There are many situations like this one that we fail to think about when we talk about food insecurity. Any one of us could find ourselves in need one day and it is good to know that there is somewhere we could go if that day comes.
You may hear the terms USDA and commodities being used by employees of the Food Bank and volunteers of the pantries. USDA stands for United States Department of Agriculture, which puts aside a certain amount of money each year to provide food (commodities) for individuals in low-income situations, through a federal program known as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). In both Iowa and Nebraska the TEFAP program is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services and the amount of funding each state receives to operate the TEFAP program is determined by the amount of people in need in the respective state.
To qualify for TEFAP you must meet certain requirements as outlined by the TEFAP program. Those that qualify for the TEFAP program receive supplemental food assistance at no cost. By filling out the proper paperwork at a food pantry that distributes TEFAP food, clients can receive food for take-home consumption. Meal providers using TEFAP food do not require clients to complete paperwork. If you do not meet the TEFAP requirements or choose not to complete the TEFAP paperwork, but are still in need of food assistance, you can still receive food support.
Monetary donations from the community make it possible for the Food Bank of Siouxland to purchase food, community retailers and wholesalers often donate food products, both with a shared goal of helping those in need.