FAQs

For more information on the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, or to ask a question not listed below, please contact us!

Hunger Education

Donating

Find Food

Volunteering

What Should I Wear?

All Volunteers are expected to wear closed-toed shoes and comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing which they would not mind getting dirty. If you will be participating in a volunteer project which requires extra preparation, like bringing a coat to repack frozen foods, you will be notified by a Volunteer Coordinator beforehand.

How do I get started with volunteering?

To begin your journey as a volunteer, you will need to navigate to our online signup through our website. To access our signup, you will need to go to the Northeastern Iowa Food Bank’s website neifb.org. From there you will go to “Get Involved” and there will be a link titled “Volunteer Signup” to take you to our Volunteer Signup page. Then create an account on the Northeast Iowa Food Bank’s volunteer scheduling website, VolunteerHub. From there, you can see and register for any of the volunteer opportunities that interest you.

How do I qualify?

If your household income is at or below the income listed for the number of people in your household you are eligible for food assistance. See more information here.

Where do my dollars go?

We value your donations more than you may ever know. That is why $.97 of every dollar goes directly towards feeding people through our programs and services. Only $.03 is used for operating expenses.

What is hunger?

Very simply, hunger is defined as the uneasy or painful sensation caused by lack of food. When we talk about hunger in America, we refer to the ability of people to obtain sufficient food for their household. Some people may find themselves skipping meals or cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase at the stores. This recurring and involuntary lack of access to food can lead to malnutrition over time.

Where do I go to volunteer at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank?

When volunteering, you may park in the front parking lot on Lafayette Street. During building hours, please enter the Front Office door to sign in. There are some programs in which a Program Coordinator may let you know you can park in the back employee parking lot.

For after-hour groups, you will enter the Front Office door unless the Group Coordinator says differently.

How often do I come get food?

At the Cedar Vally Food Pantry, you can come once a month, Monday through Thursday, to shop (pick out your groceries). Additionally, you can come once a week on Friday for our Produce and Perishables days.

What is the difference between a food bank, food pantry and a soup kitchen?

A Food Bank, such as the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, solicits, collects, stores, and distributes large quantities of food products to food programs, such as food pantries and soup kitchens. There are only 6 food banks in Iowa. A food pantry provides three-to-five-day food packages directly to families and individuals who have a place to live but not enough food. These packages are designed to provide nutritionally balanced, simple meals. Food pantries are a key source of emergency food for low-income families, the working poor, and for those whose food stamp benefits are exhausted. Many food pantries provide additional services, such as clothing and referrals to social service agencies. A soup kitchen prepares food provided by the Food Bank into nutritious meals for people who are often homeless. For some people, the soup kitchen meal is their only meal of the day.

Where can I find the volunteer handbook?

For more detailed and printable versions of our Volunteer Experiences here at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank, check out our Volunteer Handbook.

What hours is the Cedar Valley Food Pantry open?

Monday – Thursday 9:00AM-3:00PM

Friday Produce and Perishable Pantry 9:00AM-12:00PM

Why should I donate?

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank provides meals to those in need across Northeast Iowa. Your donated funds help cover program costs allowing us to continue feeding our neighbors in need.  

Never doubt the value of your support the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Whether you are volunteering or donating, your actions make a difference in the lives of our neighbors.

What is food insecurity?

"Food insecurity" refers to the lack of access to enough food to fully meet basic needs at all times because of a lack of financial resources.One of the most disturbing and extraordinary aspects of life in this farm conscience area of Iowa is the persistence of hunger. Feeding America’s annual Map the Meal Gap and USDA reported that in 2015:

  • Of the 46,440 people living in food insecure households in northeast Iowa, over 14,500 are children and 10% are seniors.
  • As reported by the USDA, in the United States, 6.3 million people lived in households that were considered to have "very low food security," a USDA term that means one or more people in the household were hungry over the course of the year because of the inability to afford enough food.
How does volunteer orientation work?

Each week we hold a mandatory orientation session. You only need to attend this session once. During this time, we will discuss rules as well as opportunities you will find during your time volunteering with the Food Bank. We will also go on a tour of the facility, so you get to see firsthand all the ways we work to close the Meal Gap.

What do I need to bring for my next visit(s)?

ID is recommended but not required.

What should I donate?

The best way to support the Food Bank through donations are monetary donations. Thanks to our network of connections we can turn every $1 you donate into up to 4 meals for our neighbors in need.

Where does the food bank get its funding?

The Food Bank has an operating budget of $3.8 million and employs 30 people. On average, about 41% of the Food Bank’s revenue comes from private support which includes individuals, businesses, churches, foundations, and special events. The remaining funding consists of the following:

  • Shared Maintenance Fees
  • Grants
  • Government: Black Hawk County and the Federal Government
  • United Way: Cedar Valley, North Central, Winneshiek County and Waverly Shell Rock
What if I need to cancel my volunteer shift?

If you are unable to make your shift, please let us know by 3:00 pm the day before your shift. However, we understand that there are emergencies. If you are feeling sick, please stay home! We have contact with a lot of clients and food, so we don’t want to spread germs everywhere. Continuous no-shows or cancellations may require the Volunteer Coordinators to reevaluate your work with the organization.

What information do you collect and why?

On your first visit we collect name, address, date of birth, income sources, and the names and dates of birth of household members. We will not ask for Social Security numbers. No proof of income, address, etc. is required

Why?

By taking part in this process and answering a few questions, you will help us reduce wait times for future visits and help us make smarter decisions about how to best serve our community.

Where does the food bank get its food?

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank is a member of Feeding America, the national Food Bank network, through which some food donations flow. National manufacturers along with local wholesalers, retailers, brokers and other food or food-related companies and organizations donate food and related products. These include packaged, canned, bottled, perishable and non-perishable foods and essential food products. Fresh produce is donated by the agricultural industry, and the Food Bank receives USDA commodities through the state. Finally, much of the shelf-stable foods the Food Bank distributes come through community food drives.

Stand-out food donors to the Food Bank include Hy-Vee, Fareway, Panera Bread, Kwik Star, Walmart, Target and Starbucks donate meat, deli, produce and prepared foods through our successful retail store donation program, which secures and distributes more than 1 million pounds of nutritious food annually.

Is there an age limit for kids in my youth group?

For youth groups ages 12-15 we require one adult chaperone per 3 children, and one adult present for every 6 youth, ages 16 and 17.

How old do you have to be to volunteer?

To ensure the safety of volunteers in an active warehouse setting, volunteers ages 12-15 must to be accompanied by a parent or guardian while volunteering. Volunteers age 16+ may work without an accompanying adult, exceptions exist for youth groups.

What if I can’t make it during open hours?

You can designate someone to pick up your monthly grocery allotment for you. New clients will need to come in for their first visit to sign-up and designate a pick-up person for future visits. If necessary, you can call in to give permission for someone to pick up for you that same day.

How is the food distributed?

Food arrives at the Food Bank in caseloads on tractor-trailers, large refrigerated trucks, and in private cars and SUVs from local food drives. The food is inspected, sorted, labeled, and stored at our warehouse for repacking and distribution in sizes suitable for community food programs. A comprehensive shopping or product list is maintained and made available daily via the food bank’s internal website, and each partner agency then creates its own food order. The Food Bank’s staff and volunteers pick, sort and pack each individual order. These orders vary in weight and can be anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 pounds, or more. Representatives of the local partner agencies pick up the orders (usually weekly), while the Food Bank delivers orders to more distant agencies. Every day, the Food Bank’s 6 trucks and 3 vans acquire food throughout Northeast Iowa and deliver orders to our partner agencies.

How do I sign in and sign out?

There is a sign-in station located in the Food Bank office. You may sign-in using the username you created with VolunteerHub. You must sign-in either on the iPad, if you have a VolunteerHub account, or on a sign-in sheet at the front desk, if you do not. If the iPad happens to not be working, you may sign-in on the sign-in sheets, however, please let someone in the office know that the iPad is not working so we can fix it. If you happen to forget to sign in or out, please let a Volunteer Coordinator know and they will adjust the schedule accordingly. Most volunteer shifts do not require that you sign out. A Volunteer Coordinator will let you know.

How do I schedule my volunteer hours?

Once you have successfully created a VolunteerHub account, you may begin signing up for volunteer opportunities. After signing into your account, you can view all of the upcoming volunteer opportunities and begin filling openings that fit your schedule and interests. We recommend trying out different volunteer experiences to find your niche within our organization. If you don’t have access to a computer, please write down your name, hours, and volunteer location and a Volunteer Coordinator will schedule you.

You may not show up without being scheduled unless you have prior permission from a Volunteer Coordinator. Please do not schedule yourself less than 24 hours in advance.