Team of volunteers representing HACAP, the First Federal Credit Union, and the Cedar Rapids Kernels during the 2nd day for Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market on June 4th at their booth alongside Green Square Park collecting donations.
Why is it so important to address food insecurity?
Food insecurity is associated with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and cancer according to a USDA study. Meaning it directly contributes to America’s rising healthcare bill. In 2016 it added $52.9 billion to the country’s medical expenses and $376.5 million to the state of Iowa according to a 2019 report by Feeding America. Each Iowan, regardless of if they were food insecure, paid an additional $121 in healthcare expenses due to food insecurity that year. These numbers reflect why it’s so important to tackle the issue of food insecurity in the country, because the negative externality of this issue affects everyone, not just those whose bellies are directly impacted.
The Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market is back for its seventeenth season, and catering to not just the food, flower, and style connoisseurs from and around the area, but also those who are struggling to make ends meet. Under its Homerun for Hunger Program, the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) has been collaborating with First Federal Credit Union and the Cedar Rapids Kernels to collect essential supplies during the farmers market. Volunteers collect food, essentials, and monetary donations from market goers and vendors to stock HACAP’s food reservoir for Eastern Iowans. The group hopes these efforts will help make a dent in Eastern Iowa’s growing food insecurity, by providing visibility to HACAP amongst donors and volunteers.
“With Homerun for Hunger, our main goal isn’t to collect a certain amount of food donations. Our goal is to get our name out there and let people know HACAP is an option to where they can donate food, money and time, as well as highlight partnerships we have with the First Federal Credit Union and the Cedar Rapids Kernels,” said Aron Brecht, Volunteer Coordinator at HACAP Food Reservoir.
HACAP’s food reservoir distributes consumables to 152 food pantries spread across Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, and Washington Counties in Eastern Iowa. As of 2019, the reservoir catered to 37,640 individuals who qualified as food insecure within the seven county area according to Feeding America, a partner organization of HACAP. Nearly 1 in 10 Iowans struggled to make ends meet in 2019 – Feeding America data suggests. While these numbers seem marginally more forgiving for Cedar Rapids (MSA) citizens, it still remains a tough pill to swallow when considering nearly 7,500 of these empty stomachs are those of children under the age of 18.
Brecht shared that children are at the receiving end of the malnourishment problem, and they’re most vulnerable during summer months with the absence of school meals normally provided through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. Brecht expects an increased demand for consumables in pantries with summer kicking off and kids being out of school, making their work with Homerun for Hunger even more important at this time.
“Everything we do in and from the food reservoir helps to alleviate childhood food insecurity. During the school year, we have our backpack program where we distribute bags of food to 60 schools in the area for elementary age school children who are experiencing food insecurity, so they have meals during breaks and weekends,” said Brecht. This program is extended to the summer months for the Kids on Course program where HACAP provides 500 bags of food to take home on weekends.
Next time you head out for your routine morning coffee or work lunch, consider passing for a day and donating that amount to HACAP instead. HACAP currently estimates it takes less than 17 cents to provide a meal for those in need. Your funds could provide 10 days worth of food, saving them from having to solve the challenging dilemma of choosing between two life necessities. Be the change you wish to see, take action in helping others and make an impact by helping fill the bellies of those dealing with food insecurity.
Learn more at: https://www.hacap.org/our-initiatives/health-nutrition