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Feed Iowa First working to grow 30,000 lbs of produce to erase food insecurity

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWW) — An Eastern Iowa non-profit, Feed Iowa First, is trying to erase food insecurity one pound of produce at a time.

Feed Iowa First is a group in Linn County that has a goal to grow 30,000 pounds of produce this year to feed those in need.

The organization connects with rural farms, home gardeners, and even local businesses, like Horizons and Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids, to grow and deliver food to hungry Iowans.

“When we go home to a nice warm cooked meal every night it is emotional, it is touching,” said Jane Melloy, a volunteer board member for the non-profit.

Melloy and Anne Langebartels, an Americorps VISTA who works on development and communication for FIA, just got back from one of the many food drops offs.

“It’s amazing the impact it has on people,” said Langebartels, “I hear a new reason every day why someone is grateful to have this fresh produce.”

All of the produce starts growing at their warehouse from a seedling until it’s a full-grown plant ready to be planted. Volunteers help take care of the produce at every step.

“It’s a really long process,” said Langebartels.

However, both Langebartels and Melloy said once you see how far it all goes, it’s so worth it.

“I just spoke with a woman about half an hour ago, that she didn’t know where she was going to be next week. She didn’t know where her food was coming from. She was lucky that she had a little bit of money this morning that she could get a meal with,” said Langebartels.

Unlike other food banks and resource agencies Feed Iowa First doesn’t require a social security number or proof of income. They want to serve hungry people who may be falling through the cracks.

“I realize that a lot of the people we deliver to are my age or older,” said Melloy, “You’d think after being able to live a good life you’d be able to relax and enjoy life but they’re worried about where their next meal is coming from… so that really stuck with me today.”

Here is how the process starts, volunteers come and plant seeds at the warehouse.

“That little seed you put in is going to feed many many people,” said Melloy.

After they sprout and become seedlings they move outside to get ready for transports. They’ll end up at one of the 20 urban farms in Cedar Rapids, such as someone’s backyard or an area business willing to take on the challengee.

Next, is where volunteers are critical to helping tend to the farms and gardens. Once it’s ready for harvest, they pick the produce and get it ready for delivery.

“Once everything harvested we bring it all back we bring it back to our shop, we clean the produce here, we store it in our cooler and then the next day or couple days it goes on or veggie van,” said Langebartels.

That food then gets dropped off in neighborhoods that they’ve identified as in need, as well as local food pantries and meal sites.

Last year Feed Iowa First distributed 20,000 pounds of food. However, the group said it couldn’t be done without all of the volunteers willing to start a garden and help grow.

This Saturday FIA is in need of volunteers to help weed 1,000 bell peppers at a farm near Lisbon that were donated. That produce can feed up to 500 people.

The group is also fundraising to hire an Executive Director.

To find out how to get involved this weekend or throughout the year, head to their website or Facebook page.

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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