Storm Lake's Upper Des Moines Opportunity is continuing its commitment to combating hunger in Buena Vista County.
Although children are more likely to go to bed hungry when school is out for the summer, a portion of the county's aging residents on fixed incomes are also going without.
"A lot of them are going to bed after only having a bowl of popcorn, crackers or toast," UDMO Storm Lake Director Joan Spooner told the BV County Supervisors Tuesday, during the organization's annual request for funding. "It breaks your heart when you hear the older generation is going to sleep hungry so they can afford their medications or utility bills."
A surplus program, not funded by federal or state dollars, is supported by local stores and farmers, who donate excess meat, eggs and other food items.
After the Pilot-Tribune this fall drew attention to excess government-donated peanut butter tubs the school district cannot use, due to new nutritional guidelines, and cannot donate, due to regulations, research continues in hopes the peanut butter can be re-distributed to hungry area residents through UDMO.
"We are sure trying to work on it," Spooner said, regarding the 11 cases of peanut butter tubs delivered monthly at Storm Lake schools. "We would love to have it, and the elderly could certainly use it."
UDMO Executive Director Jamie Whitney described the situation as "ridiculous."
"I can't understand why commodities have to be thrown away when people are hungry," he said. "There should be a way to distribute it."
With continued economic concern, charitable donations have dropped.
"People get fearful, at all income levels," Whitney explained. "But we still have a concern to meet growing needs, and money is highly needed for the food pantry and our other services."
Approximately 10 percent of county residents, or 2,182 individuals, received some form of assistance from UDMO, including energy assistance, weatherization, family self-sufficiency or Head Start, in addition to the organization's other programs.
"There is a misconception that we are serving those who are drawing welfare and sitting at home," Whitney explained. "That is not the case, because we serve a high rate of working poor and the elderly. Very few have no income or are on welfare; they are just trying to maintain."
Although demand for services has increased, UDMO has requested level funding for the new fiscal year.