Iowa Food Pantry sees record demand just days before Thanksgiving

URBANDALE, Iowa (WHO) – Long lines of buyers in late November usually mean business is booming.

“We had a line out the door all day. I don’t think there was a hiatus.” Urbandale Food Pantry director Patty Sneddon-Kisting said, however, that the lines leading to the pantry just days before Thanksgiving symbolize the real-world struggle Iowans face. “The cost of groceries, the cost of gas, inflation, there’s a multitude of factors that affect our families,” Sneddon-Kisting said.

According to the Farm Bureau, those increased costs include a 20% increase in Thanksgiving dinner compared to last year. It’s also an increase of almost $2 a pound for a turkey. It has tightened the budgets of Iowans like Des Moines’ Celine Lee. “We live in tough times,” Lee said.

The pantry is open Monday through Thursday and also on Saturdays. This free pantry allows Celine to celebrate the Thanksgiving her family has been looking forward to. “That means a lot. I can cook for my family and some of the people who live next door to me. I don’t even know them, but I like to cook for my neighbors and they appreciate it,” Lee said.

The pantry has served the Urbandale community since 2008. It has served the Polk County community since 2016, but never in its 14-year history has it reached record levels as it did on Monday, November 21st. The pantry recorded the care of over 140 families for a single day. It reached its monthly record of over 1,500 services.

When it comes to filling their trucks, another one-day record was set on Monday with over £6,000 in food donated. Sneddon-Kisting said: “These are never records that we want to break, but I’m glad we can be here to do that.”

Keeping up with record demand falls on the happily dedicated shoulders of the volunteers. “Our staff and volunteers are amazing and are just the backbone of what we do,” said Sneddon-Kisting.

Having a community that shows a giving heart all year round has also helped. Sneddon-Kisting said: “We had some individuals who, instead of trick-or-treating, would pick up cans of food from their neighbors instead of sweets and then bring everything and donate.”

Despite the struggle, Lee knows the pantry will help her guests continue to linger at the dinner table and call for seconds. “Oh, my dressing and my turkey, yes. Also my sweet potato pies.”

A community that gives what it can so others can say thank you. “It’s the time of giving and that time of the year. We appreciate that,” said Sneddon-Kisting.

The Urbandale Food Pantry also gave out over 1,000 turkeys in the month of November.