The Student News Site of Liberty High School

The Live Wire

The Student News Site of Liberty High School

The Live Wire

Food deserts and insecurity in Iowa

The number of food deserts and insecurity is increasing across the nation and becoming a rising issue.
Families and individuals living in food deserts don’t have easy access to a grocery store supplying fresh foods and produce in the vicinity.

The state of Iowa has seen an increase in food deserts and insecurity across the region. Food pantries are seeing an increase in the number of people needing resources and communities are losing vital grocery stores.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a food desert can be defined as, “Low-income census tracts with a substantial number or share of residents with low levels of access to retail outlets selling healthy and affordable foods.” 

A study was conducted by the Iowa Waste Reduction Center in 2022 to map out rural Iowa food deserts. The study revealed that “111 total communities met the criteria to be classified as a rural food desert. That means over 41,500 Iowans are living in a community where there is no local access to wholesome food options.” 

Rural towns in Iowa are at risk of becoming a food desert. This is because more small-town grocery stores are closing and going out of business. An example of one of these small towns is Jewell, Iowa. An article was published by Iowa Stops Hunger, revealing that the Jewell community in Hamilton County, was classified as a food desert merely six months after the closure of their hometown grocery store. 

Luckily for them, their struggle was seen, and the city bought the building. Enough money was raised to open Jewell Market, which is now a vital resource for the community. However, many other small towns and communities aren’t as fortunate as Jewell. Residents either have to find a way to adapt or move to where there is more access to sufficient food, which isn’t always possible.

This graph compares the increase in food distribution at the North Liberty Food Pantry from the years 2022 to 2023. (given with permission from Casey Gaylord) (Casey Gaylord)

The North Liberty Community Pantry is a crucial resource for members of the community who may have access to sufficient and nutritious food, but do not have the funds to take advantage of these resources. Casey Gaylord has been working at the North Liberty Community Pantry for about a year, but before that, he had volunteered at the Coralville Community Food Pantry. 

Pantries across Iowa have recognized an increased need for their resources. 

Subjectively, food insecurity is a large and growing issue in North Liberty, Johnson County, the state of Iowa, and the US as a whole…I have noticed way more community members using our services in the year that I have been at the pantry…Grocery delivery alone has tripled in usage from 2021. We are seeing more unique families come to the pantry more often for larger quantities of food,” stated Gaylord. 

Pantries are essential for families and individuals struggling with food insecurity. 

The North Liberty Community Pantry is a place where people go not only for their weekly groceries, but for all kinds of support. 

“When you are living in poverty, every dollar counts. Not having to spend $100 or more a week on groceries helps families utilize their income in other ways. The pantry is also important as a community hub and trusted space. Many of our families (clients) come to the pantry not just for food, but as a social time to interact with others. Lastly, the pantry is a place where people that use our services can be connected with other resources. NLCP isn’t able to help with financial assistance, but we are able to connect and refer individuals to places that will be able to assist them,” explained Gaylord.

Don't miss our latest posts!

Subscribe to our mailing list to keep up to date with the Live Wire's newest content!

More to Discover