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Jefferson County receives grant for food insecurity

The Lockridge Senior Center has been serving 80 meals a week for more than a month. It was one of several local food service programs to receive money from a Community Development Block Grant. (Photo courtesy of Dee Sandquist)
The Lockridge Senior Center has been serving 80 meals a week for more than a month. It was one of several local food service programs to receive money from a Community Development Block Grant. (Photo courtesy of Dee Sandquist)
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JEFFERSON COUNTY – Jefferson County has received $23,500 in emergency COVID-19 relief funds that it has put toward feeding the hungry.

The county hasn’t technically received the money yet, but it will be reimbursed for that amount of expenses in a number of programs aimed at tackling food insecurity.

The money comes to the county in the form of a Community Development Block Grant from Iowa Economic Development Association, which is receiving the money from the federal government’s emergency COVID-19 fund.

Jefferson County Emergency Management Coordinator Brett Ferrel and Jefferson County Public Health Director Chris Estle informed Jefferson County Supervisor Dee Sandquist of the grant opportunity, who found ways to spend the money locally on food programs. Sandquist worked with Area 15 to help write the grant and gave them information on how money could be used.

“With these grants, it’s a first-come, first-served basis,” Sandquist said. “They need to go through a city or a county because they’re typically for large projects.”

Sandquist said that, after “a lot of paperwork,” the county learned it had received the grant on May 7. The county had to pass a number of policies to ensure it was living up to the standards of Iowa Economic Development Association.

A little more than half of the grant money has gone to Carry On Bags, a program to provide meals to students on the weekends. The program was serving about 280 bags per week before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that number has risen to 320 bags a week.

Another grant recipient is First Lutheran Church in Fairfield, which runs the “Drive by Supper,” formerly known as “Come to Supper” until the pandemic forced the sit-down meal to turn into a drive-through meal. That program serves food from 4-5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Before the pandemic, the church was serving about 40 people a week, but Sandquist said that number has nearly doubled to between 65-80 per week now. That program will receive $4,800.

Sandquist said she wanted to ensure that some of the grant money went to outlying communities beyond Fairfield.

“These programs are great if you live in Fairfield, but not everybody in the rural part of the county has transportation to come here,” she said.

Two churches in Lockridge have stepped up to offer meals. They are the First Augustana Lutheran Church and the Lockridge Baptist Church. Since they began over a month ago, those churches have been serving 80 meals a week.

“That shows there’s a need in the community,” Sandquist said.

The outlying communities will receive $4,500 of the grant money. Sandquist said she’s working with food service director Stephanie Hawkins of the Fairfield Community School District on a pilot program to serve families in the school district who are in need.