1,500 lbs. of Food Rescued from Local Hotel Helps Nonprofits Feed Growing Needs

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Amid COVID-19 closures, perishable foods find a new home

With events being cancelled due to COVID-19 and businesses temporarily closing or shifting their models, perishable food items are at risk of spoiling over the next few days and weeks. At the same time, local non-profits are scrambling to fill the needs of their clients during these uncertain times.


“We know this is a hard time for restaurants, hotels, and caterers who are having to make really tough decisions,“ said Aubrey Alvarez, Executive Director of Eat Greater Des Moines, a nonprofit that works to rescue excess food and get it to organizations who need it. “We want them to know that if they have to close or cut back on services, their food can still go to good use.”


Over the weekend, the Hilton Garden Inn-Des Moines/Urbandale reached out to Eat Greater Des Moines after making the tough decision to close their doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Because of the abrupt closure, the hotel’s kitchen was full of perfectly good food.


“When faced with the task of repurposing a number of perishable food items, our first thought was to contact Eat Greater Des Moines. We knew that they would find the best use for our supplies in our local community,” said Adam Bartelt, Marketing Director at Orchestrate Hospitality. “As a bonus, their ability to come pick up the food themselves made the donation effortless.”


Eat Greater Des Moines helped coordinate the logistics and donation process for the hotel and worked with the Justice League of Food to sort through the commercial-sized refrigerator to rescue over 1,500 lbs. of food items like fresh produce and dairy products.


“We provide over 2,000 meals a month to those in our community who are food insecure through a program called Hunger Free Polk County,” said Nick Kuhn, President of the Justice League of Food. “As we are unsupported by any food banks, we either purchase food commercially or rely on food rescue donations that are large enough to support the scale of our program. The efforts of Eat Greater Des Moines have had a tremendous impact on our program and our community. We are truly appreciative of all they do.”


Other extras like orange juice, milk, yogurt, and fresh fruit from the hotel’s breakfast buffet was donated to Orchard Place’s Campus location that serves 88 kids and their PACE Juvenile Center that serves kids and families who primarily rely on Medicaid.


“Eat Greater Des Moines connecting our kids and families with food resources helps us immensely,” said Wendy Ingham, VP of Development at Orchard Place. “With this COVID-19 crisis, our staff have had to adapt quickly to help our kids and families navigate through this unprecedented time. The connections to food helps to relieve anxiety of our staff, kids, and families.  We truly appreciate the assistance at this challenging time.”


“In uncertain times like these, it is more important than ever that we all work together to help our neighbors and community,” said Alvarez. She encourages those with extra food to contact Eat Greater Des Moines directly or to download their free food rescue app, ChowBank.


How ChowBank Works

Download the mobile app or create an account online. Open the app and create an alert with your location, the time the donation is available, the description and quantity, if you can deliver, and how far you can drive.


The alert will be sent out to non-profit organizations across the metro that are accepting food donations at the time. Once an organization has accepted the donation, you will receive an alert with where to deliver and the contact information to talk directly with them via the app.


“Eat Greater Des Moines’s priority is to keep both the donors and recipient organizations safe,” said Alvarez. “We strongly recommend that donors dropping off donations to organizations take proper steps to reduce the risk of transmission.”


They encourage donors to use gloves while transporting packaged foods to recipient organizations and to do no-contact drop offs by calling the recipient organization beforehand to see where to drop the food and alerting them when they are there.


Want to help support our work? Donate to Eat Greater Des Moines today

Emma Gellerstedt

Emma Gellerstedt

Eat Greater Des Moines Intern