For the past several summers, Table to Table has hosted volunteers from the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a program of the Young African Leaders Initiative providing outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa opportunities for professional development at US universities. Jean Pierre Sibomana was one such Fellow who volunteered with Table to Table during his visit to the University of Iowa. He was so inspired by what he learned about food rescue and distribution, he decided to bring the idea to his own community.
At home in Rwanda, Jean Pierre serves at an NGO called Self-Advocacy Initiatives for People with Disabilities (S.A.I.D.), which he founded in 2014. The organization serves and supports vulnerable children with disabilities from low-income families. “These families are stigmatized and isolated because of having children born with disabilities, and our goal is to help to reduce these cultural practices and empower these families, financially and economically, to advocate for themselves,” Jean Pierre says. “We are aware that when a family is empowered, they can…give educational rights to their children with disabilities.”
Families that S.A.I.D. serves are lacking basic health support, proper food, and treatment for their health conditions. Jean Pierre has taken what he learned at Table to Table and developed a program called Smile Plate Project, which will help “families with children who have severe disabilities and other groups of people that are lacking basic needs, including food and house materials that are essential,” he says. The Smile Plate Project will work closely with local grocery stores and other partners, and hopes to start by providing food and other household items, especially relating to children’s needs. Smile Plate will be focusing on remote areas of a low resources community, and volunteers from S.A.I.D. will collect and distribute food to these people “in the collaboration of caring people who really understand the issue,” Jean Pierre says.
The Smile Plate Project will “help to show love to those who have been isolated and lost hope of the future resulting from their disabilities,” he adds. “[It will] help to empower and share the culture of sharing.”
Spending time in Iowa during his time in the Mandela Washington Fellowship program, Jean Pierre says, empowered him “to think deeply and expand my community involvement in supporting vulnerable groups of people born with mental disabilities and other groups of people that are left behind in the community.” He was fascinated with the programs he witnessed in Iowa that target vulnerable populations in the community, including Table to Table.
“We will always work as volunteers until our community mindset changes,” Jean Pierre says, “[until] all children hidden in houses are known and given their rights and free education, food, clothing, and medication…[until these families] will no longer be ashamed and be empowered economically and financially.”
The impact of our grant from Frontier Co-op to purchase a new refrigerated vehicle and one year lease on our refrigerated “big truck” can be best illustrated by the “Great Yogurt Boon of 2017”. On a Wednesday in mid-September we received a call that a local food warehouse had 8 pallets, nearly 9000 pounds of yogurt to donate. Nine thousand pounds of yogurt and the expiration was more than a month away! What a windfall! In fact, dairy is one of the most needed items for agencies serving the hungry in our community.
However, 4 tons of dairy that needs to be refrigerated presents its own challenges. Since no single partner agency can store or redistribute food in those quantities, we needed a storage and distribution plan. With our two new vehicles, we were able to accommodate this challenge with little difficulty. Our new 22ft refrigerated had the capacity to transport and keep cool all 8 pallets. We were able to use the truck as a temporary warehouse and work over the course of several hours to distribute this high value food to more than 15 local programs.
Even so, at the end of the day, we still had 800 pounds of yogurt remaining, which was not likely to fit in the 7 household sized refrigerators we have back at Table to Table. So, we transferred the remaining yogurt to the new transit van we purchased with the help of Frontier Co-op. We can actually plug this new vehicle’s refrigeration system into a wall outlet, thereby expanding our refrigerated warehouse space to 350 cubic feet. By storing the yogurt for the next 36 hours, we were able to find additional recipients in need of dairy. Local after school programs received more than 50 cases to serve as snacks and small pantries with minimal storage capacity received a second delivery after distributing the first load of yogurt early in the week.
These organizations served around 3,000 individuals with this single delivery. Without these new vehicles, this nutritious and high need food would have either gone to waste or been diverted away from those in need right here in our community. Thank you to Frontier for helping keep good food from going to waste and feeding 19,500 hungry people.
As Program Manager, Emily will manage the day to day operations of our food rescue efforts. We are so lucky Emily has agreed to take on this new role at Table to Table. You may not know it, but Emily has a few key superpowers that make her perfect for her new role.
- With her compassionate manner and infectious smile, she makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome, which is especially important since she works directly with more than 100 volunteers each week who are the heart of the Table to Table mission.
- Emily is also extremely organized. With her background in both science and fine arts, she is uniquely able to consider the logistics of our food rescue operations. Scheduling more than 700 pick-ups and deliveries each month and managing the schedules of more than 80 volunteers is as much art as science.
- She also parlays this skill set into what her friends and family have termed a “refrigerator magic”. Never doubt the amount of stuff she can fit into a refrigerator. With Emily on task, a refrigerator is never out of space.
Emily has been part of the Table to Table mission for a year and a half, and prior to her staff position here, she volunteered with us! A few of her proudest moments at Table to Table include learning all of the volunteers’ names (we have a lot so that’s impressive) and helping to secure a grant from Frontier Natural Products to lease what we call the “big truck” to aid in picking up large scale donations. Her favorite parts of her everyday work include interacting with our dedicated volunteers and helping people get better access to healthy, wholesome food. Her predecessor and mentor, David Wellendorf says,
“I know from working with Emily she cares dearly about the environment and not wasting anything”
In fact, she describes this commitment as also one of her biggest challenges.
“It is hard to say no…when we don’t have the capacity to take on a donation or a client I have a really hard time if I know there is food to be rescued and people to help, and we simply can’t do it because we are already maxed out.”
What inspires Emily the most is also what inspires us about her.
“Humanity – witnessing kindness in unexpected places, triumph against adversity”.
Regardless of the day or what else she has going on, Emily’s kindness to others is unmatched. She is always there working hard, stepping up when the organization needs her most, and doing it all with a smile on her face and joy in her heart.
Want to congratulate Emily on her new role or have a question about Table to Table’s food rescue operation? Shoot Emily an email anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us in welcoming Nicki Ross to the Table to Table team! Nicki has dedicated her entire career to bettering the lives of those around her. An expert in nonprofit operations, development, and digital marketing strategy, Nicki knows how to build a brand and engage communities in a shared mission. Previously a senior strategist at Geonetric, Nicki worked with hospitals around the country to use digital marketing to help health consumers find care. Prior to Geonetric, she spent several years in leadership at nonprofits and public institutions. She served as development and communications manager at the Catherine McAuley Center, program director of the Boys and Girls Club and Women’s Center director at UW-Parkside.
“I’m so thrilled to get to be a part of the great work Table to Table has been doing for more than 20 years. Every year dedicated volunteers and staff keep more wholesome, edible food from going to waste and get it to those who need it most right here in our own community. Now, I get to be a part of that and I can’t wait to get started.”
Nicki holds bachelor’s degrees in organizational studies and gender studies from the University of Wisconsin – Parkside and is completing her master’s degree in public administration at Drake University. When she’s not finding new ways to reduce food insecurity at Table to Table, you can find Nicki volunteering to raise awareness for homelessness and literacy or teaching her parrot Larry a new phrase.
Want to know more? You can meet Nicki at one of several upcoming events or contact her directly by email or by phone (319) 337-3400.
The last week of September will be Food Rescue Awareness Week to highlight the work that you have allowed Table to Table to do through your support.
In the 20 years since we began, we have been able to keep over 15 million pounds of wholesome, nutritious food as a resource by collecting it from donors and distributing it to those in need through agencies providing services to the hungry, homeless and at-risk population of Johnson County.
Area restaurants will be providing information about Table to Table. Many will be donating a portion of their sales during this week. Please see the list below:
Augusta 630 Iowa Ave IC 10% of brunch sales 9/24/2016
Iowa River Power 501 1st Ave CV Table accepting Donations during brunch 9/25/2016
One Twenty-Six 126 E. Washington St 15% lunch and dinner sales 9/25/2016
Basta 121 Iowa Ave IC 10% dinner sales 9/26/2016
Reunion 516 E. 2nd St CV 10% sales lunch and dinner 9/27/2016
Mickey’s 11 S. Dubuque St IC 10% sales lunch and dinner 9/27/2016
Motley Cow 160 N. Linn St IC 50% of all wine sales 9/28/2016
Hudson’s South Side Tap 482 Hwy 1 W. IC 50% of cocktail sales 9/28/2016
Oasis 206 N Linn St IC % of sales 9/28/2016
El Banditos 327 Market St 10% sales lunch and dinner 9/29/2016
Shorts Burger and Shine 18 Clinton St IC 10% lunch and dinner food sales 9/29/2016
Devotay 117 N Linn St IC % of sales 10/2/2016
Rocky O’Brians 720 Pacha Pkwy # 8 North Liberty % of drink specials all week
Wig and Pen
We will also be selling Table to Table tote bags at New Pioneer Co-ops, Bread Garden Market and Lucky’s Market.
Please enjoy these wonderful venues and know you are helping Iowa’s original food rescue organization at the same time.
Like us on Face Book to see daily reminders of the specials! www.facebook.com/Table2Table/