Members of the Hunger Free Dallas County coalition came to the March 5 Perry City Council meeting to start a conversation about food access in the area.

“I think that there might be a perception that everything is fine and that needs are being met. However, we know that nearly 10 percent of Dallas County residents are food insecure,” Beth Frailey said. Frailey is the community health coordinator at Dallas County Public Health.

The Hunger Free Dallas County coalition has been working to help those with food insecurities since 2015.

“We wanted to take this time to hear stories about what’s happening here in Perry,” Frailey said. “And start a conversation about some of the next steps to address food insecurity.”

Perry School Community Liaison Megan Maylum said that 75 percent of the elementary students qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program.

“So we have partnered with the Food Bank of Iowa. And we have a food pantry at the high school, which is accessed by all of the students throughout the district,” she said.

The school also offers a BackPack program through the Food Bank of Iowa. The program served 45 students a month and 1,669 sacks of food were handed out to students in 2017.

“It’s meant to be supplementary, but for some, this is what they have,” Maylum said.

And while she said they try to do all they can to get students fed, there are still gaps. Aubrey Alvarez of Eat Greater Des Moines said that while the program serves 45 students, they could serve 70 if the funding was available.

The Perry Area Food Bank served 164 different households a total of 482 times in 2017.

Bruce Thorsen, one of the charter members of the Hunger Free coalition, said that a number of residents also use the two mobile food banks in Perry at the Dallas County Hospital and Crossroads Church.

There are still hurdles, he said, for those looking to access food in Perry. Some of those surveyed at the mobile pantries said they weren’t aware of the Perry Area Food Pantry. Others had transportation issues preventing them from utilizing the food pantries.

“One of the things we’d like to ask the council today, believe or not we’re not going to ask you for money, is we’d like to have one of you serve on this taskforce with us,” Thorsen said.

He said the taskforce is looking to add council members from Adel, Waukee and possibly Redfield and Dallas Center, along with Perry.

Another item that the taskforce wanted to bring to the council’s attention was the idea of offering a free evening meal in Perry.

“How can we bring together the right people, the right resources, whether that’s church, other community members, to offer a free meal in the evening?” Alvarez asked.

Council member Randy McCaulley suggested talking with the Perry Ministrial Association to start the conversation.

City Administrator Sven Peterson said there is a lunch offered five days a week at the McCreary Community Building. The lunch is geared toward senior citizens.

“It’d be interesting to transition that into community meals rather than just senior meals,” he said.

Mayor John Andorf thanked the members of the Hunger Free Dallas County coalition for coming to speak to the council.

“There is lots of need out there and we’ve had some good sharing of ideas,” he said.