Some days 55 families seek free food at the Linn Community Food Bank, other days it’s 21 or 44 families.
Some lost their job or had their hours cut or are short on rent, said Sue Pearson, a volunteer for more than a decade at the food pantry. The pantry is open Monday to Friday from 1 to 3:15 p.m. in the basement at First Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids.
The demand and reasons vary from day-to-day, but month-after-month, year-after-year the number of families seeking food increases, Pearson said. The observation parallels new data released on Thursday.
The U.S. Census Bureau released a report that shows the poverty rate has increased in Iowa and across the nation.
The American Community Survey shows the poverty rate in Iowa was 12.7 percent in 2012 up from 10 percent in 2000 and 15.9 percent up from 12.2 percent nationally over the same time frame.
The Census’ American Community Survey data on poverty comes as the Republican-led House is pushing to cut food stamps by $40 billion over 10 years. The data runs at odds with the efforts in Congress, said Michael Crawford, senior associate at Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines
“I’m in favor of cutting the deficit,” Crawford said. ”But with families struggling so much, I don’t think now is the time.”
The recession has pushed more people into poverty, and for those already living in poverty, it pushes them deeper, he said.
The survey found a sharp increase in the number of the poorest Iowans, or those who earn less than 50 percent of the poverty level. In 2000, 101,203 people fit into that category. By 2012, the number grew to 159,392.
The poverty level for a family of four is $23,492, according to the Census Bureau.
At Shelter House in Iowa City, Resident Services Director Mark Sertterh said they’ve been turning away 20 to 30 people a night for the past four months. It’s the most they’ve seen in “many, many years,” he said.