The sign of a good corporate citizen is a company that steps up when its community is most in need, and John Deere has long been one of those companies.
John Deere Foundation stepped up in a big way last week with the donation of $1.7 million to River Bend Food Bank. The food bank includes St. Stephen’s Food Bank in Dubuque and supports more than 300 partner agencies in 23 counties in eastern Iowa and western Illinois, including Dubuque, Jackson and Jo Daviess counties.
The gift will allow River Bend to expand its capacity, something that’s sorely needed right now. River Bend officials said that prior to the pandemic, the highest levels of food insecurity seen in this area was in 2009, following the recession. After 10 years of outreach, the pantry was about to announce that it had finally gotten back to 2008 levels.
Then came COVID-19.
Food insecurity jumped by more than 50% as a result. The food bank responded by providing more meals than ever. River Bend ended up distributing a record 23 million meals and serving more than 160,000 people last year.
Now, fortified with John Deere’s strong support, River Bend can continue to plow forward doing its good work. A green and gold salute to John Deere for this incredible gift — and to the John Deere Dubuque Works employees who volunteered at Convivium Urban Farmstead last week packing meals for those in need. We appreciate your commitment to our communities.
Shout out to the Dubuque Community Development Advisory Commission, who recently approved an innovative proposal to help address concerns over the cost of sidewalk installation on John F. Kennedy Road.
The commission proposes using Community Development Block Grant funds to pay for installation costs for low- and moderate-income households. The Dubuque City Council members also have expressed their support for the plan and also agreed to press pause on the project to pursue a $190,000 federal grant, which could also help offset costs for residents. That’s great news for moving this project forward while addressing neighbors’ concerns.
Going after the federal dollars would push the project further into the future, but it will be worth it if the grant money can help defray citizens’ assessments. After all, this discussion of sidewalks has been ongoing for decades. A little more time to do it right won’t hurt.
More forward-thinking action was announced by the Dubuque Community School District recently with its plans to assign certain teachers specifically to the task of helping kids catch up.
We all know the academic challenges brought about by the pandemic. With learning at home late in the 2019-20 school year, then switching to the hybrid model for much of the 2020-21 school year, students had to continually adapt. Add in the quarantining, illness and anxiety that many youth had to deal with, and the academic gains were bound to fall off. Literacy benchmarks confirmed the decline this year.
So district leaders came up with a plan to create 13 “Core +” teacher positions — one for each elementary school — to work with small groups of students and to offer tutoring to address unfinished learning of academic standards.
Core + teachers will work daily with those students who haven’t met Iowa learning standards, both during and after school to bring them up to speed with their peers. Employing these teachers with this mission in mind will be an excellent use of the district’s federal relief aid.