By Chase Booth
Grinnell, Iowa—home to one of the wealthiest institutions in the country. Yet, beyond the College’s lush borders, 23.6% of Grinnell’s population of about 9,100 lives in poverty, according to city-data.com. Now more than ever, the Grinnell community finds an increasing number of high school and grade school students requiring free or reduced school lunches.
Forty-seven years ago in 1965, a non-profit organization was established to help alleviate some of these financial hardships within the Grinnell community. According to its’ webpage, MICA, or Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc., “serves children and families affected by the conditions of poverty.”
Located on 4th Avenue, MICA uses many different programs to combat poverty in the community, including handing food boxes to provide food to families that would otherwise go without, sponsoring self-help programs and more.
According to MICA’s webpage, “MICA’s services to low-income families are initiated primarily through our Family Development Centers in our five core counties of Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek, Story and Tama,” and they also provide services in 28 other Iowan counties “either through direct services or by contracting with other agencies.”
“MICA is focused less on providing a service as they are working with families to actually help them move to become more self-sufficient. It’s important for us to make sure that families are fed and have nutritious food, but it’s also equally important to have conversations with families that come in and find out what’s going on in their lives,” says Annie Pigott ’12, Grinnell Corps: Grinnell Fellow working at MICA.
“[MICA’s] really not about being a band-aid… it’s not like putting a temporary fix on something,” Pigott said. “I think what really resonates with me, something I really like about MICA, is the focus on long-term self-sufficiency, working with families and letting it be family-driven.”
Handing out food boxes once a month to needy families is a big part of what MICA does to help alleviate some of the stress on families in poverty. Last year the organization handed out about 150 boxes per month at this time. “Now, we average closer to 200. There has been an increase,” Pigott said.
When asked how students at the College can help out, “students really want to help and are enthusiastic about working in the food pantry, which is a big part of what we do and it’s important. It’s so important to have volunteers in the food pantry that can organize, stock shelves, [and] make food boxes to give out to families,” Pigott said.
Due to the nature of the organization, a “more consistent volunteer can often be a huge help to us. Having someone who is here more often and gets to know the community and the people we work with and all that is something we don’t get very often,” Pigott said.
MICA helps families in more ways than just providing food and financial support. MICA represents many different programs that low-income families can utilize to pave the way for self-sufficiency, including Family Connections, Family Development and Self-Sufficiency, Head Start/Early Head Start, and Project Assist to name a few.