Despite the uncertainty with COVID-19, Eat Greater Des Moines’s Food Rescue Transportation Program has continued to operate throughout the pandemic. In March, we hired 6 contract drivers to cover the food rescue routes that were previously run by Wesley Life Meals on Wheels drivers. Three days a week these drivers rescue food from 35 Kum & Go stores throughout the metro and distribute it to partners like affordable housing communities, nonprofits, pantries and more.
One of the driver’s hired in March to cover a food rescue route was Cheryl Northness.
After hearing EGDM’s Executive Director Aubrey speak about food rescue at her Rotary Club, Cheryl knew she wanted to get involved.
“I’ve been in Rotary, I was a Girl Scout, and am involved with my sorority’s alumni group,” said Cheryl. “I’m always trying to find ways to be of service to others, so it was a natural fit for me.”
Cheryl jumped in and began running a route three days a week.
“I’ve found that driving the routes has been so gratifying,” said Cheryl. She added that it’s been a sense of normalcy and consistency throughout the craziness of the pandemic. “Even the Kum & Go workers are grateful that I’m there, that I’m a consistent person and they know that I’m coming to pick up the food.”
During her time at EGDM, Cheryl has made so many great connections with the Kum & Store employees as well as the staff and clients at the places she delivers food to.
“Before this, I didn’t even know Joppa, an organization that serves the homeless population of Des Moines, existed,” said Cheryl.
Whenever she dropped off food to them, she made sure they were receiving foods that made sense to the clients they serve. “What works at a food pantry isn’t necessarily what’s going to be good for someone who is homeless,” she said. “I’m always very careful to make sure they aren’t getting something like bags of potatoes. I try to make sure they get the prepackaged stuff that is going to be easier to reheat or to take with them.”
After learning about Joppa through her food rescue route, Cheryl and her husband were cleaning out their basement one day. “My husband was in the Marines for years and had waterproof boots, bags, and coats he was just going to throw it away.” With her newfound connection, they donated it to Joppa instead.
Cheryl also enjoyed dropping off to Good Vibes Yoga who uses the food to feed kids who come in for programming. “I always tried to make sure their donations were kiddo approved,” said Cheryl. “I made sure they had healthy snacks like apples and their favorite cheeseburgers they told me they really liked.”
As a food rescue driver, Cheryl made a point to make a personal connection at each and every one of her stops.
“Food is a very personal thing,” said Cheryl. “Someone took the time and made this food and I’m helping make sure that it doesn’t just go into the trash.”
A manager at one of the Kum & Go stores that Cheryl developed a relationship with once got sad about how the customers hadn’t bought any of the nice donuts she had decorated. “I told her not to worry and that I would make sure that her pretty donuts find a home.”
On top of her regular food rescue routes, Cheryl jumped in to help do deliveries of food boxes through Operation: Fresh Produce drop to Big Brothers & Big Sister of Central Iowa. (pictured above)
After 8 months as a food rescue driver, Cheryl found a new job. She has been an incredible addition to the EGDM team, and we wish her nothing but the best on her next adventure! Thanks for being a great food rescue driver!