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Eat Greater Des Moines boosts local food efforts
By Renee Brincks
Each year, Central Iowa Shelter Services assists approximately 2,000 Des Moines-area adults, providing food and housing to homeless individuals and helping them move toward
self-sufficiency. Ingredients for many of those meals come to
the nonprofit via a thriving food rescue program. Restaurants,
universities and stores donate goods that are perfectly edible
but would otherwise go to waste: think day-old bread, blemished produce and surplus food from events.
them for jobs in the community. Leaders are launching similar
courses to teach growing and food production skills. This summer, volunteers helped build 15 raised beds, a 30-foot growing
dome and a rainwater catchment system to support that effort.
Tom Vance, development coordinator for Central Iowa Shelter
Services, says the central Iowa nonprofit Eat Greater Des
Moines (EGDM) connects his organization with donors who
help the shelter extend its impact and budget through those
contributions. Together, EGDM and more than 20 partner
organizations support sustainable local food systems. And, by
extension, these programs make healthy food more accessible
to consumers and more profitable for producers.
has connected me with growers and producers and
others interested in local foods. They have been really instrumental in shaping our ideas and getting feedback and he says.
Eat Greater Des Moines came to life, with the support
of other community partners, it was a great opportunity to work
with them on building program says Vance.
While EGDM focuses on projects in Polk, Dallas and Marion
Counties, it occasionally extends its efforts to surrounding communities, as well. Outreach ranges from programs addressing
food access, hunger and nutrition to policy work and business
development for new growers.
At Central Iowa Shelter Mulberry Street campus
in downtown Des Moines, individuals served by the nonprofit
can take a six-week food prep training program that positions
10 :: Harvest 2014 :: EdibleIowa.com
Vance credits EGDM team members, including director Aubrey
Alvarez, for their help in linking his group to community members interested in advancing the project.
Alvarez is one of two administrators who share one-and-ahalf paid positions at Eat Greater Des Moines. She joined the
nonprofit with experience in public administration and health
promotion, and her colleague, Linda Gobberdiel, brings a
background in nutrition and food systems. Together they manage EGDM in its current format, which has been funded by the
Des Moines Area Religious Council and United Way of Central
Iowa since late 2012. The precursor to Eat Greater Des Moines
formed in 2009 and expanded with support from the Regional
Food Systems Working Group, part of Iowa State
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
As they outlined initial EGDM programming, Alvarez and Gobberdiel looked to the local food community.
had conversations with people involved in the food
system at all different levels, from our school and community