BY PCC STAFF
LEE COUNTY – Live Healthy Lee County partners are working together to make fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible for older Iowans through the launch of a fresh produce box project.
According to a 2016 survey by Feeding America, nearly 81,000 Iowans age 60 and over are estimated to be “food insecure;” that is, they do not have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. For many in this age group, the average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,200 is their entire monthly budget. “As a result, food purchases may be sacrificed for other living expenses, like medication and utilities,” said Emily Biddenstadt, Lee County Health Department Outreach Coordinator and Live Healthy Lee County coalition facilitator.
Lee County Health Department received funding from the Iowa Department of Public Health and SNAP-Ed to plan and coordinate the sourcing and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables. SNAP-Ed funds may not be used for produce, but a majority of produce for the project is being donated by local producers, community gardens, and local gardeners. A grant from the University of Iowa College of Public Health was also received to start a community garden at the Lee County Conservation. “The conservation garden will help supplement the produce boxes along with provide education through the ISU Extension’s Summer Garden Camp,” said Biddenstadt. “We have also partnered with the Fort Madison Food Pantry Garden on what they have planted to make sure that residents have a variety of produce.”
The yellow produce boxes will be located at Donnellson Housing, Heritage Center (Keokuk), Hillview Village (Fort Madison), Mississippi Terrace (Keokuk), Newberry Center (Fort Madison), Park View Apartments (West Point), and River Terrace (Keokuk). Denmark Star Park also will have a community table. Anyone interested in donating fresh produce to the project can leave the donations in the produce boxes that are located in the community rooms.
“Because we are working with a grant we will have tracking forms in binders with the boxes. We ask that people write down what they left and what they took, no one will be contacted from the forms,” Biddenstadt said.
Anyone interested in donating produce or assisting with delivering of produce please contact Biddenstadt at (319)372-5225.