MUSCATINE, Iowa–Typically, Muscatine County residents consider winter as the time places like the Muscatine Center for Social Action and the Salvation Army of Muscatine County need the most help keeping food on their shelves. Though major drives held before the holidays, such as Freezin’ for Food, do help keep them stocked for much of the year, hunger knows no season. Pantries must keep themselves full and open even through the summer months when donations go down noticeably and supplies start to dwindle. To help make sure people in need have access to adequate food, United Way of Muscatine, in tandem with other community partners such as Crossroads, held Thanksgiving in July from July 25 to 31, bringing in a total of 3,450 pounds of food.
Originally started more than 20 years ago in Iowa City and Tiffin as a joint effort between Mercy Hospital and Hawkeye Foodservice Distribution, the first Thanksgiving in July brought in six tons of food to benefit Johnson County Crisis Center Food Bank. Surrounding communities took notice of the drive’s success, and Thanksgiving in July spread to Coralville, Muscatine, North Liberty, and other eastern Iowa cities as a way to keep food pantries full all year. “Many of us think about food drives around the end of year holidays but the need remains all year long and having this large food drive helps stock the shelves and ensure those in need have access to food,” stated Deputy Vision 2020 Director Megan Francis, who worked with Crossroads to help with this event.
To kick off the drive, many area churches took a Thanksgiving in July food collection July 25. Throughout the week, local businesses and organizations, including the City of Muscatine, Crossroads, Heinz, HON, Members Community Credit Union, Rock Valley Physical Therapy, and UnityPoint Trinity Muscatine Hospital hosted food collection sites and encouraged their employees to donate. Saturday, July 31, volunteers from Crossroads, Rotary Club of Muscatine, and United Way of Muscatine teamed up to sell $5 prepackaged food bags at Hy-Vee as a final push to collect enough food to fill the pantries.
Aug. 2, volunteers from Crossroads’ day habilitation program, the Rotary Club, and Muscatine Community College sorted through the 3,450 pounds of food they collected, determining what they had and making sure food came in good enough condition to go on pantry shelves. They then divided it up for delivery to MCSA, the Salvation Army of Muscatine County, and Senior Resources’ mini food pantry. Using Crossroads’ truck, they made the drop offs later that day.
With many people going to MCSA and the Salvation Army’s food pantry each week or supplementing their needs from Senior Resource’s mini pantry, the Thanksgiving in July food drive helped make sure everyone keeps getting the food they need before winter drives top off the pantries again. It also reminded people of the importance of supporting these organizations no matter the season. “It is important to be reminded there remains a need year ’round, and being able to make a huge impact to restock the shelves is really rewarding,” reflected Francis.