Food cupboard opens at Drake Library


Eleanor Hedges Duroy

The food cupboard located at Drake Community Library opened on Monday, Oct. 31.

Ella Labarre, Staff Writer

The Grinnell Food Coalition partnered with Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) to create a new food cupboard located in the Drake Community Library at 930 Park St. On Monday, Oct. 31, the cupboard, largely funded by the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, opened for the first time. 

The newly established Grinnell Food Cupboard supplies basic, nonperishable food items as well as basic hygiene and personal products for families in need, serving as a supplement to the MICA food cabinet.

Karen Neal, Drake Library director and a board member of the Grinnell Food Coalition discussed the purpose of the Cupboard, saying, “The food covered here is not intended to replace your families going to MICA. The idea is it’s a supplement and we have a ton of information here about MICA.”

The Grinnell Food Cupboard is meant to fill in the gaps between times where families may not be able to go to MICA due to closures or other circumstances. 

For now, Grinnell’s new food cupboard will only provide items such as cans of soup, but Neal says that she hopes in the future to have a refrigerator and be able to provide a greater selection.

Neal says that the project was a community effort led by many organizations and individuals working together with the Grinnell Food Coalition to address food insecurity in Grinnell. She noted, in particular, The Ahrens Foundation, Ryan Solomon from Career, Life and Services (CLS) at Grinnell and Mindy Clayton, a director at MICA.

Both Solomon and Neal said that board members recognized the need to help families that are struggling due to high inflation rates, leading to a timely decision to establish this supplemental cupboard. Additionally, Neal said that the food cupboard became particularly necessary after the Montezuma Food Pantry began limiting their hours and days of operation last June.

“We wanted to make sure we could still meet the needs of the people in our city,” said Neal.

The Drake Library was chosen for its centralized location and accessibility, said Ryan Solomon, a Grinnell Food Coalition Board member.

“Ultimately the value that the library offers is that it’s widely used by the community and has extended hours,” said Solomon. “So, because it’s put in the foyer, people can access it as late as 8:00 at night during the week.”

Neal also spoke to the reason for selecting Drake Library. “We thought we could meet needs better because people could just come in when they can and they can get the food right then. There wasn’t an extra step to go through” said Neal.

Neal additionally noted that the library has previously been a location for food vouchers, saying, “it was thought that if we had an option for food on this side of 146 that that might serve our community in a different, possibly better, way than the vouchers.”

In addition to his work with the Grinnell Food Coalition, Solomon works as a facilitator for student involvement on campus. He says that student volunteers are always an asset to making sure the cupboard runs smoothly and at its best capacity. 

Students can work to stock shelves, collect food and help facilitate the logistics of the food cupboard. Solomon encouraged students to reach out to him to figure out more ways to get involved in helping Grinnell tackle food insecurity amidst difficult times.