By helping fill food pantry shelves

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

Or so goes the old song. The reality is less harmonious as too many folks in N’West Iowa are going hungry this summer.

But you have the power to help alleviate that problem, if you will only give a bit. That is, of course, your choice.

Upper Des Moines Opportunity outreach specialist Brenda Collier is doing what she can to ensure people have something to eat. In addition to her work in O’Brien County, she has bought food using her own money, because she just can’t abide seeing folks with nothing to eat.

In the past, the food bank served an average of 160 families each month. In June 2019, that grew to 209, Collier said. She has never seen it this bad.

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

She said most of her clients are working people, some with two or three jobs. That income can mean they do not qualify for food stamps or other government assistance.

The O’Brien County food bank, located at 140 Second St. S.E. in Primghar, relies on donations of food and money. Cash is always welcomed, but Collier said the food bank also is requesting cereal, soups, canned vegetables and fruit, ravioli. In addition, young families need shampoo, paper towels, diapers, toilet paper and other home essentials.

There are local residents living without electricity, she said. Some are elderly, and rely on a federal program that only provides funding help for utility bills in the fall and winter. So they sit home, in the dark, with no food, little hope and growing despair.

“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.”

Marianne Sjaarda has been coordinator of the Hope Food Pantry in Sioux Center for seven years. She said summers are always rough as the need for help rises just as donations slow.

In addition to cash and food, she said personal items are much needed. Send donations (marked “Hope Food Pantry”) to the Center for Financial Education, 315 First Ave. N.E., Sioux Center, IA 51250. If you have any questions, call 712-540-9351 or 712-722-3527, e-mail cfedirector@gmail.com or go to hopefoodpantry.weebly.com.

You can drop off cash and items Upper Des Moines Opportunity office at 140 Second St. S.E. in Primghar, located east of the post office, call 712-957-1023 or e-mail Collier at bcollier@udmo.com.

Other food pantries in the area — and there are several through churches and social agencies — also need donations. If you want to make summertime a little bit easier for someone, offer a helping hand.