After the Storm

August's derecho amplified food insecurity issues in the state.

With an estimated 14 million acres of crops flattened, more than 8,250 houses destroyed, power outages affecting 450,000 Iowans, and downed trees throughout central and eastern Iowa, the Aug. 10 derecho made a devastating mark on the state.

Iowans emptied refrigerators and freezers due to spoilage (shortly after the storm ISU Extension recommended tossing refrigerator contents within four hours of a power outage). In Cedar Rapids, one food bank that serves Meals on Wheels to the elderly lost its entire fresh and frozen food supply. Elsewhere in Cedar Rapids, hundreds of refugees were left homeless in a tent city.

The storm caused $4 billion in damage to homes, businesses, schools and farmlands. It won’t be known for months how severe the impact of the 140-mph storm will be on Iowa’s food insecure. As of press time, Iowa’s crops are anticipated to be 17% smaller than average years.

But in true Iowa fashion, neighbors helped neighbors clear tree debris and charge phones, shared generators, and distributed food from their food trucks and backyard gardens.

In Des Moines, the city extended its Emergency Food Distribution program, in which local restaurants, businesses and food trucks provided free meals during the pandemic and after the storm. Up to six venues each day served hot meals to residents in need throughout the city. The Iowa Department of Human Services offered low-income Iowans up to $5,000 to replace food through disaster relief.

And in hard-hit Cedar Rapids, people from across the state converged on the community to help with cleanup efforts and provide food and diapers, as well as temporary shelters, to residents.

To help with the continuing recovery efforts in eastern Iowa, contact the HACAP Food Reservoir, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Disaster Recovery Fund or Iowa Storm Help.

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