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Infrastructure is Good!

November 16, 2016 | Blog

YIKES!!! The start of the school year is intense for me here at the Food Bank of Iowa. We brought on new BackPackTM partners to bring our total to 139 schools and 5,000 kids each served each week through this program. There are also new contacts at some schools who need to learn the program too, so a lot of time is spent making sure everyone is comfortable with the BackPack ProgramTM. We are so glad that there are people willing to do the work in their own communities to make this happen! Of course, with a new school year comes paperwork and new reports. Good thing that I love spreadsheets!

We also keep adding to our number of school pantries. We had an amazing group of people start one at the middle school in Nevada. They have a great place in the school and a great community partner. They fired me up. Anyone else out there that wants to have a school pantry in your community? Give me a call.

One of the barriers for putting school pantries within school buildings is space. We solved that problem by doing our first mobile school pantry. We now have a family box system set up. This sounds like a great idea, right? Just have a box of family-sized portions of food to hand out to families that need it. Well it is a great idea, but there has to be infrastructure set up for everything when you want to roll it out in large numbers. The first step was coming up with a program to get these boxes packed. We tried out our assembly line with a great group of volunteers in August and it worked pretty well. We appreciate volunteers who are willing to try something new and maybe change processes midway through to make things work better. With family boxes on inventory and ready to roll, they are now available not only for these mobile school pantries, but also to some of our BackPackTM schools that may have families that need a little extra help and don’t have pantries close to their home. Can I get a woohoo for family boxes?! OK, next step is getting the boxes to the schools. Thanks to our delivery locations and some great community partners, this is starting to happen. We also have a brand new fantastic, stupendous Food Bank of Iowa van that I can drive. I have affectionately named her Big Bad Bev. We only have a limited staff in the warehouse, so they are not always able to drive our trucks. There are orders to be pulled in the warehouse and much to be done to keep it running smoothly. We love our warehouse staff – they are the best. Now, with the addition of this fabulous new van, we have the flexibility for other staff and – wait for it – volunteers to drive the van and deliver food to our rural areas. YAY!!! I have a wonderful volunteer who will be driving to the next mobile school pantry and we are always looking for more. Yes, infrastructure is good.

We have covered a couple of topics for the Feeding America Rural Child Hunger Capacity Institute and I continue to gain knowledge on how to feed children in rural areas. Our topics have been Program Outreach & Promotion, Site Recruitment, and Best Practices for Targeted Outreach. A lot of ideas were shared, but the bottom line is that our programs have to be known across our entire service area and there has to be an advocate in each community who is willing to help. We have a new AmeriCorps VISTA that started in August and will help with our community outreach. I attended her first Food for Thought discussion that she coordinated in Laurens. It was a great meeting with 17 people from the community interested in the topic of food insecurity and what they can do to help. We will be starting a BackPackTM program there in January! Yes, people just need to know about our programs and how they work.

This brings me to my last topic for this post – staff turnover at non-profits. We have a new VISTA, which I mentioned, but we also have a new volunteer coordinator, new communications manager and as I write this, we are down a food sourcing resource and an executive director. Yes, change is the only constant. As you all know though, change creates stress. Please be kind when you call – we all need some tender loving care right now. I am personally trying to remain positive and keep the goal in mind – let’s feed some kids!

Kate Pauly | Regional Partnership Coordinator

Kate Pauly is the Regional Partnership Coordinator for Region 1, the northwest corner of our service area. She takes a holistic approach to hunger fighting, helping our partners find the best solutions to get food to people in need.

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