The Important of Supporting new Families
Throughout the COVID pandemic, two long-time community partners have strategically and creatively found ways to reach out and meet the needs of the Cedar Valley’s youngest and most vulnerable families. Together the Northeast Iowa Food Bank (NEIFB) and Together For Youth (TFY) have ensured these families receive the proper services and essentials.
Serving two generations of youth, the pregnant teen, and their young child, TFY’s Young Parents Together (YPT) program has met the needs of families for three decades through the utilization of various curricular and education. A dedicated staff with expertise in serving the community’s youngest and most vulnerable families provides the necessary prenatal and parenting education. NEIFB has provided the space and place for this staff to properly educate these families while providing a meal during their programming. With open doors, the NEIFB has also given these families the access to the on-site pantry to ensure they have adequate supplies to keep their cupboards at home filled.
Since COVID hit, YPT saw its size and participation triple. With a consistent five teen families being served each week before, the program saw an increase to 15 young families on a weekly basis throughout COVID. It also gained seven new participants as their outreach led to referrals from various schools and agencies. YPT’s capacity to serve these young families during the pandemic also expanded beyond the usual group who meets on Mondays to weekly, individualized case management sessions through Zoom and weekly meetings with the YPT coordinator. With this increase, both NEIFB and YPT have stepped up to ensure the needs for these families are met.
NEIFB has opened up its doors on Mondays throughout the duration of the pandemic to allow families to come pick up a cart full of groceries, including diapers, wipes, gas cards, protective masks, blankets, community resource lists, formula, condoms, hand sanitizer, Chapstick, and journals. The Food Bank has boxed up the food for the YPT staff to give out to these families each Monday.
“A lot has changed for the Food Bank since COVID has hit, affecting the way that we ensure basic needs are met for families in our community. But what hasn’t changed is the determination and focus on doing all we can to serve and meet those needs, even if it looks a little different. YPT shows this determination and focus in their services as well, and we are happy to have that partnership,” said Barb Prather, NEIFB Executive Director.
Joni Spencer, Together For Youth Coalition Director, added to that: “We are very appreciative of our long-standing partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. We are especially grateful that during this pandemic our community can continue to provide weekly education, support, and specifically meet the basic needs of these young families in the Cedar Valley. We are so much stronger when we work together.”