Food bank cupboards

The shelves and cupboards at the O'Brien County Upper Des Moines Opportunity food bank are nearly empty. Outreach specialist Brenda Collier said summer months are the hardest.

PRIMGHAR—Demand for donations at food banks reaches a high point during the summer months, and Upper Des Moines Opportunity in O’Brien County is feeling those effects.

Outreach specialist Brenda Collier is seeking the public’s help as the O’Brien County food bank cupboards are almost bare and have been for more than a week. The food bank is kept running strictly through donations. Cash and food item donations are accepted.

The O’Brien County office, located at 140 Second St. S.E. in Primghar, typically serves about 160 families per month during the summer. However, 209 families were served in June.

“It’s because kids are out of school. Here in Primghar, we don’t have free lunches like Sheldon and I think Hartley,” Collier said. “This is the highest I’ve seen it.”

The food and funds donated to O’Brien County’s UDMO office is only used for residents of the county and the homeless.

The office partners with Food Bank of Iowa to have food delivered monthly, which is paid for through donated money. The next delivery will not arrive until Monday, July 15.

Collier has used her personal funds to provide some food such as peanut butter and crackers.

“I had to turn five families away yesterday,” she said Tuesday. “I scrounged up some food today to fill some boxes because I didn’t want to turn anybody away today.”

Items that Collier said are great for donations include canned vegetables, canned fruit, SpaghettiOs, ravioli, cereals and soups. There also is a need for diapers, toilet paper and other household items not covered by food stamps.

The outreach specialist said many of her clients face difficult decisions when it comes to working, health care and how to stretch their funds to feed their families.

“I have clients who are working two or three jobs just to pay day care. It’s ridiculous, but we can’t judge people and think they’re not working just because they’re coming to the food bank, or they're not working because they’re getting food stamps,” Collier said. “Their money doesn’t stretch enough to feed their family, or they have insulin or whatever they have to pay for. If this is their only source because they make too much to get food stamps. We have to come together as a community.”

She said some families also are without electricity because they cannot afford to pay their energy bill. The federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is only available Oct. 1-April 30. It is the only federally funded program offered through UDMO O’Brien County.

“We’re out of crisis money. I have very little money from our O’Brien County shares, so I can’t assist them,” Collier said. “Then I have people going without lights, which in this heat, especially the elderly, I don’t know what to do.”