Olympian helps Northeast Iowa Food Bank break ground - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Olympian helps Northeast Iowa Food Bank break ground

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It's an important milestone for an Eastern Iowa organization. After years of planning and fundraising, the Northeast Iowa Food Bank is breaking ground on its new building in Waterloo. The 45,000 square foot facility will benefit the 13% of families in a 16-county area who don't know where their next meal is coming from.

It's a symbolic move, putting on a hard hat, throwing dirt a few feet. But after years of fundraising and planning, Saturday's groundbreaking makes the achievement seem real.

"This is just a monumental day for us. To be able to finally break ground so we can bulid a facility that will efficiently provide food to the people of Northeast Iowa," said NEIFB Executive Director Barbara Prather.

The new facility will offer an additional 20,000 square feet of space, opening up new possibilities for local families.

"We're going to have a kitchen on site, which we don't right now. So I'd love to bring families in and teach them how to cook and cook nutritiously and pass that through to their family. And start making better healthy eating habits. I think that's going to be... we're not just about giving food out. We're about changing lives," said Director of Programs Karen Erickson.

Erickson's passion for nutrition inspires many, even a world-class champion.

"She's changed the mindsets of many, that they're not just accepting any type of food from the community. They want to teach the importance of nutritious meals," said Dominique Dawes, 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist.

Dawes can relate to many of the families with whom Erickson works. She turned to gymnastics when her family was struggling, in the same way that, each year, 40,000 Eastern Iowa families turn to the food bank.

"The number one reason that many people are going to the food bank today is because of temporary unemployment. And it's temporary -- that's the key word to take away. it's a temporary hardship that we all are going to face some time in our life. And if we look at it that way -- that we know there is going to be a tomorrow, we can put our focus and minds on hope. That's what I did then, and that's what I pray many people do today," said Dawes.

There is still a ways to go, but Saturday's event marks the beginning of the final stretch.

"It's unfortunate that the need is so high, but I really really appreciate the community's support. We would not be able to do this without them," said Erickson.

The Northeast Iowa Food Bank has raised more than $4.3 million in its capital campaign. Saturday, Tyson Meats and Wheaton Franciscan Health Care donated nearly $40,000 to the cause.

This is part of the new Human Services campus in Waterloo. Operation Threshold's new service center opened in the same area this spring after the floods of 2008 damaged its former home in downtown Waterloo. The Women's Center for Change is also planning to open soon at the site.

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