US

Small Iowa town a window into hunger problem in rural US

  • In this Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Aurora Marte, of Storm Lake, Iowa, loads food into her car during a drive-by pantry sponsored by the Storm Lake school district, in Storm Lake, Iowa. Storm Lake has a low unemployment rate, vibrant downtown and tree-lined neighborhoods, but it’s also facing a surge in hunger that’s familiar to rural communities across the country. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

    In this Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Aurora Marte, of Storm Lake, Iowa, loads food into her car during a drive-by pantry sponsored by the Storm Lake school district, in Storm Lake, Iowa. Storm Lake has a low unemployment rate, vibrant downtown and tree-lined neighborhoods, but it’s also facing a surge in hunger that’s familiar to rural communities across the country. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Upper Des Moines Opportunity food pantry staff member Melissa Keller stands among empty shelves in the pantry in Storm Lake, Iowa. Storm Lake has a low unemployment rate, vibrant downtown and tree-lined neighborhoods, but it’s also facing a surge in hunger that’s familiar to rural communities across the country. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

    In this Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Upper Des Moines Opportunity food pantry staff member Melissa Keller stands among empty shelves in the pantry in Storm Lake, Iowa. Storm Lake has a low unemployment rate, vibrant downtown and tree-lined neighborhoods, but it’s also facing a surge in hunger that’s familiar to rural communities across the country. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Maria Medel, center, and Francisco Garcia, right, talk with a worker at the counter in the Upper Des Moines Opportunity food pantry, in Storm Lake, Iowa. Storm Lake has a low unemployment rate, vibrant downtown and tree-lined neighborhoods, but it’s also facing a surge in hunger that’s familiar to rural communities across the country. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

    In this Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016 photo, Maria Medel, center, and Francisco Garcia, right, talk with a worker at the counter in the Upper Des Moines Opportunity food pantry, in Storm Lake, Iowa. Storm Lake has a low unemployment rate, vibrant downtown and tree-lined neighborhoods, but it’s also facing a surge in hunger that’s familiar to rural communities across the country. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)  (The Associated Press)

The small northwest Iowa city of Storm Lake has a low unemployment rate, vibrant downtown and tree-lined neighborhoods, but it's also facing a surge in hunger that's familiar to rural communities across the country.

The community is struggling to respond as thousands of working families and elderly residents seek help feeding themselves or their children. The issue persists even as national poverty rates have declined and food prices are down.

In Storm Lake, residents are helping their neighbors with a large, mostly volunteer effort to hand out free food at a half-dozen pantries, along a city street and in an empty building.

Hermelinda Gonzalez relies on a monthly drive-up pantry to feed her seven children despite her husband's construction job. She says, "I don't know what we'd do without this."