How a QR code and UFTE are helping address food insecurity

How can a small group of gardeners help with food insecurity in Siouxland?  And what more can be done?  

Those are questions Up from the Earth (UFTE) thinks about each year. Up from the Earth is a small group of gardeners who encourage like-minded folks to grow an extra row of produce and share it with local pantries.   A website and a brochure with a pantry list were developed around 2015 with a goal to bring fresh produce to those with food insecurity around Siouxland.

It is estimated that 1 out 5 children and 1 out of 10 adults in Siouxland experience food insecurity.   Food insecurity is when there is not consistent access to food for every person in a household. 

The UFTE website is the host to a listing of pantries, including their schedule and a map link.  It also has a listing of the drop off places that will accept fresh and clean garden produce.  This past winter the leadership team evaluated some problems and opportunities facing the community. Once the problems were stated, we started looking for opportunities. A plan quickly came together.

The Problems

  • A typical client of a food pantry is not aware of the many pantry options. 
  • Gardeners aren’t aware there are places who accept their bumper crops.
  • The printed pantry and collection site schedules quickly become outdated.
  • No central location exists to communicate all of the collection sites and pantries. 
  • The 40 or so sites operate with different schedules and parameters. 
  • All of the communication is in English.  Our schools are a snapshot of the area population.  Young Siouxland residents who are in ESL programs in Sioux City and South Sioux City School Districts account for 22% and 15% respectively of the student population (KTIV, March 2023 and SSC District website, May 2023).
  • Food pantry clients as well as gardeners aren’t aware of the UFTE website with current collection sites and pantries

The Opportunities

  • Call or check on each location to confirm the pantry schedule.  
  • Update the website once the new schedule is confirmed.  
  • Create a print-ready pantry schedule in Word with color coded days.  
  • Create an app so that clients can find pantries from their devices. 
  • Or – Create a QR code (Quick Response) that can be put on posters to direct readers to the website with updated pantry information. QR codes are free and easy to create, and most smartphones and tablets have built-in QR code scanners in their cameras.  
  • Collaborate with UFTE team members and pantries on editing and approving the posters. 
  • Take the call from Erica DeLeon at One Siouxland who offered to interpret the posters – in SEVEN LANGUAGES. 
  • Print and distribute the posters to all of the current collection sites and pantries.
  • Create a button on the website to download a pdf copy of the schedule.
  • Create Google Map links for each location listed on the website.

Many folks helped to put this project together.

  • I volunteered to do the heavy lifting on the Website, get the QR code, develop a Poster and slides, and create the Pantry schedule on a Word doc.
  • Randy Burnight provided new pictures for the website and the poster, tested the copy with pantries, and wrote a grant with Thrivent Financial to cover printing cost.
  • Valerie Peterson, Graphic Designer at the Food Bank, tweaked the poster for print, size and design.
  • Brenda Sale, NEP Associate, Dakota County Extension of UNL edited the copy.
  • Erica DeLeon, Director of One Siouxland, and her translators interpreted the posters as well as post them on various monitors in Siouxland where ESL families might congregate and need access to a pantry.

A nice story, right?  I was very surprised that Up from the Earth is the only group to create a master list of Produce Drop Off sites as well as Food Pantries, and offer materials in different languages.  Because of our diverse Siouxland community, I’m proud to be a part of a solution to help families in need, to be more inclusive, and to work with a team of people with similar values.  Up from the Earth will continue to work toward addressing food insecurity, and is hopeful the new posters in seven languages and the QR code will help Siouxland families.  

By Pam Mickelson, she worked with Morningside University students on UFTE branding and currently volunteers with UFTE, the air museum, and Iowa Master Gardeners.  She and her husband donate produce from their small garden, drive thousands of miles each year to various national parks, and visit their kids in Seattle and Kansas City.

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