The Nicest Place in Iowa: Lansing Iowa Food Trust in Lansing

"Always Here to Give People a Lift When They Need It"

People go hungry everywhere, every day. In this tiny town, help is here, and everyone pitches in, even guests.

Food insecurity is when you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from, and it can happen anywhere, even in America’s breadbasket.

When folks in Lansing, Iowa, a town of 1,000 people nestled on the banks of the Mississippi in the northeast corner of the state, realized that some of their neighbors couldn’t afford to feed their families, they came together with a solution: the Lansing Iowa Food Trust, or LIFT. Like many food banks across the country, it gives residents in need a place to get groceries for free.

Board President Karen Galema says she got the idea from her granddaughter, who runs a food pantry in another town.

“Around here, we all grew up poor,” she says, “and everybody recognized the need.”

Last year in March, she started organizing the community, and by October, LIFT had opened its doors and is now serving about 40 households. Each client can pick up 100 pounds of food twice a month, which they select from pantry shelves and coolers just like they’re shopping at a grocery store. One elderly man who showed up at the pantry said he’d never been able to contribute anything to the Sunday social in his retirement center—until he left LIFT with a whole box of cookies.

The whole town pitches in, even visitors. Every year, a flock of snowbirds come to spend summers enjoying Lansing’s river views and hiking the surrounding hills.

“This is a river town, and it’s become a tourist town,” says Galema. “We have a very large summer and fall population. They retire from good jobs, and it’s brought money and people with leisure time so they can volunteer. They help out a lot.”

Barbara Weipert, a client of the pantry, learned about the program through her church. She and her husband have adopted their grandsons, two growing boys of 12 and 15, so they like to pick up cereals and breads and plenty of fresh fruit.

“Everyone there is so nice,” she says. “Every little bit helps.”

—The Editors

The Nomination

When there was a need expressed a community come together to fill a gap. The gap was hunger insecurity and the community was in small, quiet Lansing.

lansing iowa food trust nicest placeCourtesy Rhianna Galema
The grand opening of LIFT, just a year after the idea was conceived.

Hunger insecurity is when people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. This issue is prevalent in elderly and children. Food Pantries are put into place to fill the gap between income and SNAP and food security. Lansing is a small close-knit community that always rises to the occasion. A small group of community members volunteered their time to help form LIFT from the ground up. They treat everyone who comes for food assistance with dignity and respect because you never know who needs the next LIFT up.

One elderly man lives in a senior apartment building and they have a social every Sunday. The man had a very limited budget and often times struggled to make ends-meat. He was never able to take anything to the Sunday social and felt bad. He got signed up at LIFT and as he was leaving the pantry one of the volunteers asked him if he would like to take a package of cookies with him on his way out. He was so excited to be able to take something to the social that following Sunday.

lansing iowa food trust nicest placeCourtesy Rhianna Galema
It’s just like regular grocery shopping, except the food is free to those who need.

Bread and produce items are offered at no limit at LIFT because they are perishable and if people can take them and use them it helps them and keeps the food out of the landfill. One woman took two bags of apples so she could make applesauce for her grandchildren.

LIFT started with a small ground of passionate and kind people who saw a need. They created a board of directors created guidelines for the pantry and in October 2019 they opened LIFT. They have a nice waiting area set up for clients to wait in until it is their turn to go through the pantry. On opening day they gave donuts to their clients. The board president had one of the client’s children sit on her lap while she filled out paper work. They all go above and beyond to supply this basic need to people in their community.

I cannot say enough good things about the people who started and continue to run LIFT. They never look down on anyone they serve they welcome everyone like family.