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The Making of a New Food Pantry


My name is Olivia. I just finished my 3rd and final term of service with AmeriCorps since graduating from the University of Iowa in 2014. Thanks to AmeriCorps, I have been able to give back to my home state in countless ways. I would consider my time at CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank to be the highlight and most life-changing of these experiences.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I struggled to envision how I could make a positive impact here in Iowa City. I knew more of my neighbors were struggling now than ever, but wasn’t sure how I could make a difference. The answer found me in the form of the Iowa COVID-19 Recovery AmeriCorps Program. I applied immediately and chose CommUnity as my host site. 

Since then, I have spent the last 16 weeks prepping, distributing, and delivering food and personal hygiene items to folks throughout Johnson County. Any time that wasn’t the case, I was helping plan the opening of CommUnity’s new food pantry location in the Pepperwood Plaza. It has been my responsibility to schedule and facilitate weekly meetings to ensure the project’s success.

Our overarching goal from the beginning has been to restore in-person shopping safely for everyone involved. I have typed, drafted, designed, interviewed, researched, and brainstormed with the Planning Team to make this opening the best it can be. So I may be a tad biased when I say that I think we have come up with some creative and fun ways to restore in-person shopping at the Food Bank at Pepperwood Plaza. 

COVID-19. The derecho. 2020. It has been a tough year to say the least. I decided to grab hold of my own narrative, though, and am so glad I did. CommUnity’s drive to serve has been relentless and a source of comfort for me in these uncertain times. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many individuals and families positively impacted by this organization. At the end of the day, I’m proud to say I’ve played a small role in it all.

I have also enjoyed working with staff from Table to Table, Habitat for Humanity, Johnson County SEATS, and more. Not to mention all of those who spend time working for CommUnity. Talk about some high-quality people to spend time around! Regardless of why you’re seeking a volunteer opportunity, I strongly encourage you to check out what CommUnity Food Bank has to offer. You can sign up for a shift by clicking here.

Your time is like any other resource and should be invested accordingly. What I hope to see is others taking this message to heart and giving whatever they can to non-profit organizations like CommUnity. Once your eyes are open to the beautiful networks of helpers and hope in our community, you can’t close them.