The Coralville Community Food Pantry is now collecting pet food

Pet food portioned out into bags at the Coralville Food Pantry. Monday, March 3, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

For the last 10 years, the shelves of the Coralville Community Food Pantry have consistently been stocked with beans, rice, pasta, bread, dairy products, canned food and fresh produce for low-income residents of Coralville and, more recently, Tiffin.

In 2020, the pantry has designated some shelf space for kibble.

Pantry organizers have long noticed a demand for pet food, but it was rarely donated. On Feb. 4, the nonprofit opened its “Pet Food Pantry” with a $1,200 grant they received from the Friends of the Animal Center Foundation (FACF).

“Thanks to the generous support of FACF, we are now on track to ensure that all of our neighbors, even the furry ones, get the sustenance they need every single week,” said John Boller, executive director of the Coralville food pantry, in a press release.

The Community Giving Grant is the result of a donation surplus the FACF noticed in the spring of last year. They decided to share those financial resources with other programs in the area aimed at helping animals via a grant program.

FACF began the grant application period last summer. Applicants were required to submit a proposal, information about their organization, the project they were working towards, their budget, financial statement information and a description of their key staff.

Three groups applied and the committee awarded grants to two of them: the Coralville Community Food Pantry and the Pet Partners of Johnson County.

“We definitely thought it would be beneficial for families who maybe are struggling,” said Katie Symmonds, a FACF board member, of the pet pantry. “And if [food pantry patrons] do have pets, that could be one less thing that they have to worry about, and still be able to feel like they can take care of their pets who are part of their family and not have to give them up say for adoption because they can’t afford to feed them.”

The Coralville Community Food Pantry will use the money from the grant to purchase bags of pet food — primarily for dogs and cats, depending on the demand — which they will then be portion out for distribution. However, they will not be spending any additional money on the Pet Food Pantry, so Boller advises supporters of the project to give bags of food, rather than monetary donations.

Boller told Little Village, “We can now use this as a launching pad to communicate to the community that when you’re thinking about donating to your local food pantry, [pet food] is also a really vital item for so many reasons. Similar to other food pantries in the area, we have a really great, abundant supply of food, and a lot of that is thanks to the community support that we receive, but there’s definitely a need for pet food, and that’s just as important.”

The FACF is planning to continue this Community Giving Grant in 2020 so they can finance more innovative programs like the Coralville Pet Food Pantry.

“Whether it’s on social media or just like talking to people, our supporters and our neighbors are really excited about this program,” Boller said. “I think they understand how important animals are in people’s lives and how meaningful it is to be able to offer this resource to people who are struggling already just to get the food that they need, but makes it even harder for them to get the food that their animal companions need as well.”

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