*This article was updated September 2020.
Regardless of age, education, employment status or address, hunger can impact you or those around you. Food insecurity External Site — or the limited availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, and the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways — isn't only found in certain ZIP codes and it certainly doesn't abide by seasons. It's a 365-day-a-year issue, and one that affects kids and adults alike.
According to the Food Bank of Iowa External Site, 1 in 8 Iowans struggles with hunger. And, 1 in 5 kids may not have enough food at home. 384,830 Iowans live at or below the poverty level. This group is estimated to report needing $167,753,000 more per year to meet their food needs according to Feeding America External Site. In South Dakota, it's a very similar story. 1 in 8 people and 1 in 6 children struggle with hunger. This group is estimated to report needing $51,929,000 more per year to meet their food needs.
Food insecurity could be in your workplace
Your employees may even be food insecure. Have you heard of ALICE External Site? It stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This person earns above the federal poverty level, but not enough to afford a bare-minimum household budget that accounts for housing, child care, food, transportation and health care. And, they are forced to make tough decisions when it comes time to decide which one takes priority.
ALICE households tend to move in and out of need throughout the year — one unexpected car repair or hospital bill can set them back. Based on the people served by the Food Bank of Iowa, 64 percent have to decide between paying for food or paying for medical care or medicine. In South Dakota, 68 percent of those served by Feeding South Dakota External Site must choose between purchasing food or paying their utilities.
Hard decisions like these can lead to food insecurity and even hunger, which may negatively impact:
Self-actualization, or a person's morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance, experience purpose, meaning and inner potential. Self-esteem, or a person's confidence, achievement, respect of others and the need to be a unique individual. Love and belonging, or a person's desire for friendship, family, intimacy and a sense of connection. Safety and security, or a person's health, employment, property, family and social stability. Physiological needs, which include breathing, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep.
Food-insecure adults may even be at an increased risk for negative health conditions and chronic disease, like obesity Opens in a new window, diabetes Opens in a new window and high blood pressure Opens in a new window, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion External Site. Children impacted by food insecurity also run an increased risk for obesity, poor lifelong eating habits and developmental problems.
What can you do to help?
Living a healthy and productive lifestyle starts with proper nutrition. Check out five ways you and your employees can make a big difference for food-insecure adults and children at your worksite and within your community.
Host a drive for your local food pantry
Consider what your community needs are and try hosting a drive outside of the peak holiday season. Summer, especially for those with school-age children, can be particularly trying for food-insecure families. Donating canned and self-stable grocery items are always welcome. But consider personal care items, like toilet paper, toothpaste and soap, or even homegrown garden produce (depending on the pantry). Check out this online directory of food banksExternal Site, soup kitchens, and nonprofit organizations committed to fighting hunger near you.
Create a Little Free Pantry at your worksite
A Little Free Pantry External Site can serve as a "take what you need, leave what you can" location for food items and other household necessities. Whether an employee is stocking or taking stock, a pantry like this can help create a sense of community within your workforce. You can find DIY instructions to build a pantry here External Site.
Carve out space for a workplace garden
Have a small patch of land that could become host to a Giving Garden External Site? Or do you have a thriving community garden program in your area? By encouraging your employees to volunteer their time, you can increase employee engagement and improve morale, encourage team building and inter-department connections, and increase access to fresh, local produce for employees and community members in need.
Donate money to Feeding America®
Every dollar counts, providing at least 10 meals to families when donated to Feeding America External Site. Through this organization, you and your employees are helping a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.
Volunteer as a team
It doesn't take a huge commitment to make a big impact, and volunteering as a team can make your employees feel good while getting a lot accomplished for your community. At a food pantry, your team can help sort donations, pack boxes, stock the pantry, and even help with special events.
The Wellmark Foundation cares about food insecurity
The Wellmark Foundation Opens in a new window aims to positively impact the well-being of Iowans and South Dakotans. Recently, the Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to the Food Bank of Iowa to complete the renovation of the volunteer center. The newly renovated Wellmark Foundation Volunteer Center provides a safe, comfortable space for volunteers to support the Food Bank of Iowa.
“Together, The Wellmark Foundation and the Food Bank of Iowa are working toward a hunger-free Iowa by providing food to children, families and seniors so they can lead full, active lives. Because of this shared vision of our two organizations, the Foundation is proud to provide this grant and we look forward to seeing the impact it has on Iowans for generations to come,” said Becky Wampler Bland, retired executive director of The Wellmark Foundation.
More helpful resources
- Food Bank of Iowa External Site provides food to Iowans in need and organizations like food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters with a goal to end hunger.
- Feeding South Dakota External Site aims to eliminate hunger in South Dakota.
- For more county-by-county insights, check out Iowa's ALICE dataExternal Site and Map the Meal Gap External Site, which highlights food insecurity throughout the country.
- Feeding America External Site is a hunger relief organization with a nationwide network of food banks, including Food Bank of Iowa.
- HungerandHealth.org External Site explores the intersection of food insecurity, nutrition and health.
- HealthyPeople.gov External Site provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.
- NoKidHungry.org External Site wants to end child hunger in America and ensure that all children get the healthy food they need every day to thrive.
The Wellmark Foundation is a private, non-profit foundation created by Wellmark, Inc., doing business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Please visit The Wellmark Foundation's website to learn more about our grant program, as well as a list of previous grant recipients. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa and The Wellmark Foundation are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.