MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa – Food access continues to be a challenge for communities across the United States, especially for those struck by natural disasters and economic downturns.
Recognizing the issue, the Food Systems team with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is working on a national project to evaluate and improve food systems in five regions across the country, including Marshall County, Iowa.
In the past five years, Marshall County has experienced damaging tornadoes, derechos and drought – all of which have had a significant impact on the local food system. In addition, the community also experienced food system disruptions from COVID-19.
On March 10, ISU Extension and Outreach will hold a “food access discussion” at the Marshalltown Public Library, from 1-3 p.m. The public discussion will include a brief presentation on food access and resilience, as well as introductions of food pantries and support agencies, and discussion of potential projects the group might pursue.
“We want to bring food pantry leaders, grocers and others with a vested interest in the local food supply system together to discuss the situation, what improvements they’d like to see, and the ideas they have for the future,” said Courtney Long, food systems program manager with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Amy Pieper is the county extension director in Marshall County. She said the meeting will be an opportunity for those involved in the county’s food system to voice challenges and opportunities.
“This is a great opportunity to identify people and organizations providing food resources in Marshall County,” said Pieper. “The hope is to create a network to share best practices of getting food access to residents in need.”
In a recent survey conducted in the county, 35 participants shared their experiences with the local food system. More than 90% indicated they purchased from local or regional grocery stores, with half or more indicating they also purchase from farmers markets and rely on personal gardens or farms for their foods.
The survey respondents also shared their concerns about the mental and emotional impact of recent climate-based events, and issues they experienced during the response effort.
Other place-based communities in this project are Bastrop County, Texas; the Virgin Islands; Kenai Peninsula, Alaska; and Benton and Washington counties, Arkansas. The project is supported by the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture and Iowa State University.
The Marshalltown Public Library is located at 105 W. Boone St., Marshalltown, Iowa. There is no registration requirement.
To learn more about the March 10 meeting or the work being done in Marshall County, contact Amy Pieper at email@example.com or 641-752-1551. To learn more about the national project, contact Courtney Long at 515-294-2213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shareable photo: Marshall County food pantry. The Marshall County Master Gardeners constructed a Free Little Food Pantry at the ISU Extension and Outreach Marshall County office to donate garden produce. John Lawrence, vice president for extension and outreach at Iowa State, and Nadine Fogt, ISU Extension and Outreach Marshall County office assistant, stocked the food pantry with donations.