Partner Profile: Urbandale Food Pantry
To limit physical interactions at the food pantry, visitors place their monthly order for food in an enclosed booth they enter from the exterior of the building. Daily food rescue items are available at another door, where pantry visitors may enter one at a time. The food pantry also incorporates social distancing, a mask policy, sanitizing, and cleaning procedures.
These adjustments have allowed Urbandale Food Pantry to meet the food needs of the community while ensuring a level of safety for pantry visitors, staff, and volunteers, says Patty Sneddon-Kisting, who has served as Executive Director of Urbandale Food Pantry since 2019.
The enclosed intake booth was made possible by help from Hansen Company, who also built weather shielding across an overhang to provide a level of protection from the elements for pantry visitors as they wait outside. A doorway into an adjacent suite was installed by Jim Kirkman, which has allowed the food pantry to continue their robust food rescue program.
In a typical month, the food pantry assists around 2,500 people. During the pandemic, Urbandale Food Pantry has been seeing an average of 60+ new households accessing the food pantry every month. One in three people assisted by Urbandale Food Pantry is under the age of 18, and 400-500 seniors use the food pantry every month.
Sneddon-Kisting says many of the people using the food pantry are working, often more than one job, and are still struggling to make ends meet. Others have recently lost their job or experienced some other type of financial hardship.
“So many of our families have multiple jobs. We have families that have experienced a medical situation, a financial loss, a hardship in some way, a house that burned down. I had a gentleman come in because his house burned down, he was referred to us through a Red Cross volunteer to come to our pantry to help. His daughter brought him in, and then two weeks later his daughter came in and said, ‘I can’t believe this, but I just lost my job because of COVID.’”
Other visitors to the food pantry rely on a fixed income and utilize the food pantry to stretch every dollar they have.
“There’s an older gentleman who comes in once a month,” said Sneddon-Kisting. “He always wears a suit and a fedora. He leaves his house every single day dressed like that because that’s how he wants to feel and look when he goes out in the community.”Food insecurity exists everywhere in our community, says Sneddon-Kisting, but it often goes unseen, and many people who do need help may be afraid to ask due to the stigma around using a food pantry that unfortunately still exists. She encourages people to change their perspective of what poverty and food insecurity looks like, and to be proactive about offering support.
“One of the things I don’t think people realize is you can pick up food for somebody else. So if you have an elderly neighbor that lives next door to you who may need access to food, go knock on their door and see if there’s something you can do. Reach out to your local pantry, and say, ‘Hey, what are you really low on? I’m going to Costco, can I get you a couple things?’ And if you have the means to provide a monetary donation, by all means do so.”
Urbandale Food Pantry is part of the DMARC Food Pantry Network, and also partners with Eat Greater Des Moines, Food Bank of Iowa, Hunger Free Polk County, and the Urbandale Ministerial Alliance to meet their mission of providing food assistance with dignity and compassion. The pantry receives support from local churches, corporate donors, civic organizations, the City of Urbandale, and area residents.
During the pandemic, two new partnerships have formed to help provide food access to people who lack transportation. A partnership with United Way 211 and Lyft has provided rides to the food pantry and T’s Angel Hands, a group of Johnston high school students, has been making deliveries to homebound families.
Sneddon-Kisting credits the ability to remain flexible and adapt during the pandemic to the ongoing support from the community, but most importantly, the staff and volunteers of Urbandale Food Pantry.
“We wouldn’t be able to do the work that we do if it wasn’t for the amazing staff and volunteers here. They deserve all the kudos and credit possible – all of it.”
As to what the future holds at Urbandale Food Pantry, she expects that the need in the community for food pantries will continue to rise.
“I don’t think we have seen all of the effects that the pandemic has wrought,” said Sneddon-Kisting, “I think they will be long-standing.”
To learn more, visit urbandalefoodpantry.org.