At a recent library conference session, a professor from the UNC Greensboro’s Department of Library Science & Information Science shared important facts. Three-quarters of the counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are in rural areas. We are certainly aware of this in Linn County with the closing of LaCygne’s grocery store, the struggle to keep Pleasanton’s viable, the attempt to start a community garden and food bank.

Dr. Noah Lenstra’s program covered how public libraries feed America: 1) Distributing food at the library, 2) Teaching and supporting gardening, 3) Teaching how to prepare healthy food, and 4) Offering the library’s support to food programs (e.g. Food for Fines). He shared how we can use the resources of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including its Cooperative Extension, Summer Food Service, 4-H, and Master Gardener programs. Finally, Lenstra moderated an interactive discussion about how we can start feeding America at our libraries.

For several years at Pleasanton Library, we have enlisted local K-State Extension agents to teach children to cook healthy meals and grow vegetables. The classes are fun and informative, and the First Baptist Church in Mound City generously shared take-home bags of food for those who attended those programs. But we hope to do more. One of the many ideas we have considered includes working with the Friends of Pleasanton Gardening to revamp our raised beds to include vegetables. This is a seasonal project, but certainly doable.

We hope to continue working with the Extension office to build additional programs to feed more people. Seed Savers already have programs in place we could access. One idea we will put into practice right away is providing space to display food donations for those who need assistance. Non-perishable items would be placed on the metal rack near the north door. Another collection point will contain items that cannot be purchased using food stamps. We’ll post this list for those inclined to donate items. During harvest season, we will also provide a space where gardeners with extra bounty can share their vegetables.

On our Wish List is a Little Free Pantry (Take What You Need, Leave What You Can). If we could find someone willing to build a water-tight cabinet similar to our Little Free Library currently outside the library, we could begin stocking it with food donations accessible at all times. The Methodist Church in Mound City has one of these they call a Blessing Box.
The list of ways the library can get involved goes on, but we cannot do everything ourselves. If you are interested in helping library staff with our wish to help provide food, and programs for our residents in need, please contact us at the library, 913-352-8554.