The morning sun beat down on a group volunteers in the Vineyard Church parking lot off of Euclid Avenue as a large semi-truck slowly backed into position.
Everyone stood with the slightly uncomfortable six feet of separation that has become a normal part of our everyday lives. Each person was armed with gloves and a mask—some professional grade, some a simple handkerchief, others cobbled together with a towel and two rubber bands.
As the beeping of the truck stopped, each of us from different backgrounds put aside the fear, isolation, and anxiety this pandemic has caused. In that moment it didn’t matter. All that mattered was working together to unload the 13,000 lbs. of fresh produce from the truck to help feed our neighbors in need.
Over the course of one hour, Eat Greater Des Moines’s Operation: Fresh Produce Drop, unloaded 467 cases of fresh produce. Eleven different types of fruits and veggies were organized, from tomatoes and greens to 50 pound bags of onions and potatoes.
This fresh produce was then distributed and picked-up by 13 partners like educational institutions, religious organizations, affordable housing communities, and other organizations serving the public during these unprecedented times.
“Because of restaurant closures, large scale demand for produce is down and distribution companies are looking for innovative was to get their product to communities,” said Steven Williams, Operations Manager at EGDM. “We partnered with Loffredo Fresh Food Distribution Company to help bulk purchase produce at a discounted rate for some of our food rescue partners and smaller organizations that couldn’t buy full pallets of food themselves.”
EGDM coordinated and managed the logistics between these smaller organizations and Loffredo streamlining the process to make it easier for everyone. Food recuse partners were sent order forms to fill out how many cases and what types of product they needed. Although the produce was extremely discounted, costing $4 dollars per case, Eat Greater Des Moines and Urbandale Community Action Network (UCAN) helped cover a portion of the cost.
Eat Greater Des Moines was so thankful to receive $5,000 from Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation from their COVID-19 Nonprofit Emergency Operating Relief Grant.
“This helps us tremendously as we work to ensure everyone has access to quality food. We don’t want price to be a barrier for anyone,” said Aubrey Alvarez, Executive Director of EGDM. “We just want people to get these fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Each of the 13 organizations who benefited from this produce are working overtime to help support the growing needs of their community in the wake of COVID-19.
One organization, Knock & Drop Iowa, who works with the Latinx community, added the produce to the bags they prepare full of food and drop off to people’s homes.
“We are so thankful for this partnership and fresh food,” said Zuli Garcia, from Knock & Drop. “This is for our single mothers, elderly, and people without work. What’s most important is that they are getting not just food, but nutritious food and vitamin C that will help them stay healthy.”
Volunteers from Vineyard Church helped unload the truck and then packaged produce into individual bags that were handed out drive-thru style to over 400 community members and refugees in collaboration with organizations like EMBARC later that afternoon.
“The first thing that we tell people is that there is no paperwork needed to get this food,” said Becky Waugaman, Associate Pastor at Vineyard Church. “A lot of refugees aren’t served by the regular food programs in our city because they are scared or don’t have the resources to fill it out. That is what makes it essential to us that we are feeding those that might be left out.”
After the last cases were unloaded, volunteers were air high-fiving and laughing about just how heavy a sack of potatoes really is. Although exhausted, you could tell people were smiling behind the masks. It was an important reminder that we are stronger and better together.
Going forward EGDM hopes to continue working with Loffredo and our food rescue partners to have weekly operations just like this one.
Help support our efforts:
- + Donate to help us purchase more fresh fruit & veggies for organization that need it
- + Have a truck? Volunteer your time to help unload and deliver product. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org