Think Iowa City’s Foodie February Event will include new “Fillanthropy” food drive

Foodie Fillanthropy is the newest addition to Foodie February, part of the Think Iowa City event


Grace Kreber

The Coralville food pantry is seen on Sunday, Nov. 7. 2021.

Virginia Russell, News Reporter

Think Iowa City’s annual Foodie February event debuted a new initiative to help combat food scarcity in Johnson County.

The Foodie “Fillanthropy” event is a month-long food drive alongside Foodie February and will directly benefit food pantries in the area.

Since its start in 2019, Foodie February has been an opportunity for restaurants to showcase menus and spur customer activity, Kylee Stock, Think Iowa City special events manager, said.

“Our mission is to engage more with the community and bring them out to our local restaurants to support them during a slower month,” Stock said.

During Foodie February, participating restaurants host special events and display a special menu created for “restaurant week,” the final week of the month. There is also a drawing where customers get a chance to win various prizes.

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Each year, Think Iowa City reaches out to restaurants for a chance to participate. This year, there are 24 participating restaurants, which is a decrease from 56 restaurants in 2022. Stock attributed this to staffing difficulties.

“Restaurants are still struggling with staffing, [so] they can’t fully commit to running a whole restaurant while also coming up with a specific different menu for the week,” Stock said.

Because of this, the event decided to cultivate a more personal experience where restaurants made a pre-fixed menu, as opposed to specials or occasional discounts that were already on the menu.

“We wanted it to be more intimate for restaurants that we know will go the extra mile to create that menu,” she said.

Stock said the Foodie Fillanthropy food drive was created to find a way to incorporate the local food scene through other channels that don’t just include restaurants.

“The food pantries are constantly needing donations, and what better time to do that than during our foodie celebration,” Stock said.

The North Liberty Community Pantry, Coralville Community Food Pantry, and CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank are the three pantries participating in the food drive this year. All donated resources are equally distributed among them.

Kaila Rome, North Liberty Community Pantry executive director, discussed the involvement process.

“They reached out to us and the other pantries and just wanted to start the conversation that if we’re talking about being foodies and food in our community, we should also acknowledge that there is food insecurity in our community as well,” Rome said.

Rome said the pantry has dealt with significant increases in resource needs. The influx, Rome said, is largely because of cutbacks on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

SNAP benefits allow people of low-income households to purchase healthier food options. The program is the largest in the U.S. for addressing hunger and poverty, serving over 41 million people.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people were eligible for these benefits, so when they were rolled back in April 2022, it made purchasing food difficult for low-income households, Rome said.

“Those safety nets kind of got pulled out from underneath them,” Rome said.

The Coralville Community Food Pantry saw close to a 50 percent increase in the number of those in need in 2020 compared to the previous year, John Boller, pantry executive director, said.

 Since then, the pantry has dealt with increased visits and food-sourcing problems.

“Due to some of the supply chain issues that have trickled down to local food pantries, we’re having a hard time keeping our shelves and our coolers stocked,” Boller said.

Boller said events like Food Fillanthropy ease the pressure on food pantries and help support them in difficult times.

“Thankfully, we didn’t have to do any heavy lifting at all,” Boller said. “Because we are busier than ever, we don’t have as much time to fundraise and solicit donations, so to have a group like this go out and do that on our behalf is really helpful.”

Foodie Fillanthropy will continue in 2024, according to Stock. Next year, she plans to possibly expand the drive into a one-day event and include other activities.

“We’re one year under our belt. I think we can only go up from here to continue to promote it and get that message out,” Stock said. “Doing what we can to push out that message is very important because we want everybody in our community to have that right of food security.”