5 Ways to Support Our Local Food System during COVID-19

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Times of crisis and uncertainty can be isolating, especially when social distancing is involved. COVID-19 is testing our current food system and illustrating the need for people to pay closer attention to where their food comes from and where it goes. Wondering how you can help support a strong and resilient food system from home?  Here are 5 easy ways.

1. Grow your own "victory garden"

It’s planting season in Iowa and this year more than ever, gardens seem to be sprouting everywhere! “Victory Gardens” or “Stick It to the Virus Gardens” are making a comeback. During WWI and WWII, people were encouraged to plant and grow their own gardens to help relieve pressure on the public food supply and to boost moral. During this new crisis, modern day victory gardens can provide much needed health benefits and an excuse to get outside or be used to grow and donate food for local pantries or organizations like Eat Greater Des Moines. From windowsills to rooftops or raised beds, gardens gardens come in all shapes and sizes come in all shapes and sizes. Get inspired and start your own today!

2. Give $ to local organizations fighting food insecurity

A strong food system is one where everyone has enough to eat. Almost 300,000 Iowans have filled for unemployment since March, leaving families and individuals struggling to access food. In April, the DMARC Food Pantry Network assisted 12,019 unique individuals with nearly 1,500 of those people using a DMARC food pantry for the first time ever. In light of COVID-19, donating money rather than food items helps DMARC buy more food from wholesalers and cuts down on volunteer labor. Other smaller organizations like Knock & Drop Iowa and EMBARC are working to get donated food from restaurants or EGDM’s Operation: Fresh Produce Drop to refugee and minority communities who are often overlooked in times of crisis.

3. Buy local products/Support restaurants who buy local

Local food is having a much needed moment. In March the Iowa Food Coop saw an increase of $12,000 from March sales, making it their highest month ever. Amid the strains on our industrial food system, people are beginning to rethink how the food we eat gets to our plates. Farmers like Dogpatch Urban Gardens and Grade A Gardens are shifting their models and offering their farmstand or CSA products online. Find a list of other local producers here. Farmers markets can be an easy and safe way to get local products. Some markets are switching to pick-up only while others are operating as normal, but encouraging safe social distancing. Be sure to check your local farmers market website for any changes. You can also support local by ordering curbside pick-up from restaurants like HoQ and The Cheese Bar who source products from local farmers.

4. Reduce food waste at home

It’s easy to forget about the head of lettuce shoved in the back of the fridge or wait a day too long to eat that VERY ripe banana. Household food waste is the largest portion of ALL food waste. In the US, an average person wastes 238 pounds of food per year (21 percent of the food they buy), costing them $1,800 per year. With panic buying and lots of us cooking more meals at home, now’s the perfect time to brush up on how to get the most out of your food. Here’s 29 smart and easy tips on how to cut back food waste at the store, at home, and during meals. Have one too many cans of beans in your pantry? Check out 100 ways to turn pantry staples like beans and pasta into full meals.

5. Sign up to glean extra crops from farms

Looking for a hands on way to get involved with the local food system and get food to the community? Sign-up to become a volunteer gleaner this harvest season with Eat Greater Des Moines! Gleaning may sound complicated, but it’s pretty simple. It’s the act of harvesting extra produce from farms that isn’t sellable and redistributing it to organizations and people in need. With the guidance of the farmer, a group of volunteer “gleaners” head to the field and spend the day harvesting, sorting, and packaging the fruits or vegetables. It’s a family friendly-activity and a great way to get involved, while staying socially distant!


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Joie Probst

Joie Probst

Communications & Outreach Manager