“If you would have told me Eat Greater Des Moines could pull this off 6 months ago, I would have thought you were joking,” said Steven Williams, Operations Manager.
Last Thursday, with the help of 28 volunteers at two different locations in the metro, Eat Greater Des Moines harvested, rescued, and unloaded over 36,000 pounds of food that was then distributed into our community.
“EGDM’s network of partners is growing quickly through this pandemic because the need for good food is so high,” said Steven, “It’s great to be able to activate and work with this network that has been built to ensure good food isn’t wasted and gets to organizations and families in need.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, one of the ways we’ve worked to fill the need for more quality food, is through our ongoing Operation: Fresh Produce Drop initiative. What originally started as a way to help move excess bulk products from wholesale distributors while also supporting organizations affected by the pandemic has continued to evolve.
Every Thursday for the month of October, in partnership with Des Moines Area Religious Council, we are distributing the USDA’s Farmers to Families food boxes to organizations in need. Each week, 30 partners like churches, refugee/immigrant communities, in-home daycare centers and others who are not traditionally able to access emergency food resources, receive these boxes.
Last week, as the temperature dipped below 40 degrees for the first time this fall, a group of 8 volunteers gathered outside of the DMARC headquarters to unload the usual semi-load of food boxes to our partners. Due to a last-minute donation from Perishable Distributors of Iowa, volunteers also distributed 6,000 pounds of extra protein like smoked sausages and deli meat that would have otherwise been thrown away.
“Without Capital City sharing a refrigerated trailer to keep the food safe, Forklifts of Des Moines donating a forklift to speed up process, DMARC sharing their space, and volunteers taking time to distribute boxes—none of this would have been possible,” said Steven.
He emphasized that we have the resources in our community and when we pull together we can accomplish incredible things.
That same brisk morning, another group of volunteers joined Executive Director, Aubrey Alvarez, at Faith & Grace Garden in West Des Moines to glean the remaining produce like peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes before the frost.
Throughout the pandemic we’ve expanded our gleaning program to help reduce food waste and get local food to people in need.
Earlier that week Faith & Grace had reached out to ask for help mobilizing volunteers. By Thursday morning we had 20 volunteers ready to get to work. Over the course of three hours the volunteers, including a group of Waukee APEX students, saved hundreds of pounds of fresh, local veggies. When they finished, Aubrey and Mark Marshall, the gardener at Faith & Grace, hustled down to DMARC to drop off the freshly picked produce to our partners who were there picking up their boxes and extra protein.
Zuli Garcia with Knock & Drop Iowa, an organization that works to get food to the Latinx community, was thrilled to have the fresh produce, especially the hot peppers for her families. Other partners like Des Moines Refugee Support were excited to be able to provide deli meat to families with children for easy lunches.
At Eat Greater Des Moines, we are always working to identify and fill the gaps within our food system. In the past months, we’ve done our best to pivot operations to address these gaps. In the process we’ve made mistakes and learned many valuable lessons. The one thing that is clear is that we can’t do it alone.
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