Twenty-five years ago retired teacher and leader, Frank Lalor, helped found Table to Table, Iowa’s first food rescue organization. Imagine, wrapping up an incredible career as an educator and deciding to dedicate the next 25 years to improving the community in a new way. Table to Table has been yet another educational endeavor for Frank, a lifelong learner. What is a community food rescue program, if not first and foremost an endeavor to educate people on food waste and hunger?
Together, Frank and a group of community leaders sought to alleviate hunger in our community while also reducing the environmental impact of food waste. Frank speaks of its inception as “merely a good idea whose time had come.” Frank’s son, Jerry, remembers that first donor phone call in Frank and Jeanette’s kitchen when Frank exclaimed “Hot Dog! We got one!”
Since his first delivery in the family station wagon in 1996, Frank’s passion and commitment to the work has never waned. He has continued to work with Table to Table in our daily mission, serving as the liaison to Iowa City Free Lunch Program and collecting ingredients for a well-rounded meal for more than 100 Free Lunch diners per day. He also delivers donations from key partners and has delivered more than 60,000 pounds of food a year on his routes. Most years, Table to Table rescued food 365 days because Frank showed up every single day to deliver any food remaining in storage. Empty refrigerators at T2T are a hallmark of the operation. We built upon Frank’s example to ensure all of the food we collect is delivered to people who will eat it by the end of the day.
Over the years, Frank has helped build a coalition of 50 nonprofit partners, 100+ food donors, and hundreds of community volunteers. At the end of each year, staff have come to look forward to Frank’s short retrospective,
“It’s been another good year! We filled all 365 days with at least one pick-up and delivery. Congratulations to us all–staff and volunteers–for this remarkable and satisfying achievement! We have done well in meeting our mission: of collecting and distributing food for the hungry, homeless, and others at risk.”
Buoyed by his constant encouragement, volunteers have delivered 25 million pounds of food and fed tens of thousands of our neighbors.
With this incredible milestone met, Frank is retiring from his role at Table to Table. In his announcement, Frank shared this message for those continuing his work,
Since we can’t yet convene in celebration of Frank and all of his incredible work, please consider writing a note to Frank and sending it to Table to Table. You can submit your message in a variety of ways on this page. We will deliver your well-wishes and appreciation to him.
Stay tuned for additional ways we will recognize Frank as we celebrate him and 25 amazing years.
Todd Widmer and Claire Widmer, father-daughter volunteer duo, joined T2T in the early stage of our pandemic response. Since then, Claire and Todd have shown great versatility and flexibility as they have helped out on some of our regular food rescue routes, jumped in on several of our special routes, and have helped on both weekdays and weekends. Claire and Todd have demonstrated a consistent desire to be a positive influence here in the Johnson County community, and we are thankful for all their help.
Todd: Registered Nurse at UIHC in Surgical and Neurosciences ICU
Claire: Junior in high school
Where are you from?
When did you begin volunteering with Table to Table?
What’s one of your favorite memories from your time volunteering with Table to Table?
Every time we pick up and deliver a New Pioneer carrot cake, and the day we collected nearly 1600 pounds of food!
What is one thing you would tell new T2T volunteers when they’re first starting out?
They will be amazed about how much food we save.
What are your hobbies?
Todd: Watching and attending sporting events. Traveling. Family time.
Claire: Soccer, show choir and choir, flute, reading, traveling
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?
Todd: Réunion Island
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream (or favorite dessert)?
Todd:I just like ice cream
Claire: Angel food cake
For the last six months, Ezra Schley has worked with Table to Table as our dedicated and helpful part-time Program Assistant, reliably launching our food rescue routes and leading operations each morning.
We’re excited to announce Ezra is transitioning to the full-time role of Program Coordinator, a brand-new position at Table to Table. The knowledge of Table to Table that he’s built up over the past six months, the positive relationships he’s made with volunteers, donors and recipients, and the innovations he’s brought to our processes have prepared him well for this new opportunity.
“This new position is helping us to have a greater capacity,” Ezra says of his new role. “It will allow Emily [Meister, our Food Rescue Program Manager] to do more programmatic development – growing our programs and diversifying them.” Ezra will be focusing on the day-to-day program logistics as well as organizing and analyzing food rescue data. “I will help develop, grow, and improve relationships with our partners. That’s an opportunity there – to thank partners for everything, see what’s working best, and see what we can do more of. We couldn’t do this without them.”
Ezra has a degree in Environmental Science and International Studies from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he was co-president of the Sustainability Club. Since graduation, he has served in various capacities with environmental and food insecurity focused nonprofits, including time as an AmeriCorps Sustainability Outreach Coordinator at the Tennessee Environmental Council, and as an intern with our food rescue neighbors to the west – Eat Greater Des Moines.
On a personal level, Ezra is excited to build upon his knowledge and enthusiasm for food rescue through his position. “I was interested in food rescue before I started at T2T, but over the past few months that interest has really grown, and now I’m passionate about it. Food rescue is such a complicated and interesting thing, and there’s so many voices to incorporate. I’m really excited to continue.”
Part-Time Program Assistant
Position Overview: Looking for a part-time gig with a local organization doing big things? This job is ideal for a reliable, friendly, and organized person with some free mornings during the week. The Program Assistant is responsible for supporting the daily function of the food rescue program and its volunteers in a welcoming and fast-paced environment. This person directs volunteers and communicates with donor/recipient sites to ensure smooth pick-up and delivery of donations. The best candidate is a team player with leadership experience and enjoys interacting with people of diverse ages and backgrounds. Applicants must be energetic, self-motivated, and have strong communication skills. This position reports to the Food Rescue Program Manager.
Submit your resume and cover letter to Emily Meister, Program Manager via email: Apply Now
Employment Status and Work Hours: (Part-time 25 hours per week)
Four to five weekday mornings starting at 7:30 am with flexible shift end time before 1 pm. Occasional saturday mornings in lieu of weekday hours
Wage: $12-$15 an hour depending on experience
Roles and Responsibilities:
- Coordinate daily routes by getting volunteers started and directing their tasks for the day.
- Assist with training and orientation of food rescue, fleet, and facility volunteers.
- Communicate with key staff at donor/recipient sites to ensure smooth pick-up and delivery of donations.
- Accept, track, unload, and organize one-time food donations and distribute these incoming donations.
- Accompany volunteers on food rescue route delivery when needed.
- Complete shop/facility duties normally done by volunteers as needed.
Desired Education and Experience
- Experience as a team leader or front office/reception experience in a fast-paced environment
Necessary Skills and Requirements
- Valid driver’s license and good driving record.
- Ability to work in a fast-paced public-facing role, maintaining energy through often repetitive tasks and communications
- Ability to sustain positive communications and model for volunteers a compassionate, non-judgmental approach.
- Functional knowledge and ability to use Microsoft Office and volunteer databases.
Interview conducted by Patty Meier, Table to Table Board of Directors
As the pandemic stretches capacity and resources, DVIP continues to meet basic needs of those seeking shelter and support in crisis. As a long time partner DVIP has found ways to utilize rescued food to bolster their service offerings. Table to Table volunteers pack boxes of food for Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) nearly every day of the week, helping to ensure that DVIP can meet their clients’ basic needs.
“Table to Table helps us provide options in regard to food security,” says Elias Ortiz, the Director of Shelter and Youth Services at DVIP. T2T delivers food for immediate meal needs and also stocks the DVIP food pantry, which serves a broader group of clients beyond those in need of immediate shelter.
DVIP provides comprehensive support and advocacy services to victim survivors, focusing on immediate and long-term safety, empowerment, dignity, and hope. “Our mission is to empower individuals,” says Ortiz. “The gateway to DVIP services is the crisis line, so our primary audience is intimate partner violence.”
DVIP serves eight counties – District 6 in the state’s new system of funding domestic violence services. “State funding cuts have led to the elimination of domestic violence shelters from 32 to 8 statewide,” says Ortiz. The eight remaining shelters have to serve more people and compete for reduced funding, which is part of why DVIP expanded to additional counties.
“The [multi-county expansion] has brought challenges in establishing rapport, building trust, providing transportation, etc,” Ortiz says.
DVIP can build rapport and trust with individuals by immediately helping them stabilize, meet their basic needs, and help them maintain dignity through crisis. By building foundational trust, DVIP can then begin addressing clients’ trauma. The organization seeks out partnerships that can help meet essential needs and stretch their financial funding, allowing them to focus on their primary supportive services.
DVIP’s shelter is open 24/7, 365 days a year, serving 360 individuals in an average year. The shelter is always full. As soon as someone moves out, someone else moves in that same day. “Even more so during the pandemic, tensions at home are higher, and there are fewer places to go,” Ortiz explains. More than half of the individuals living in the shelter are under 18, with most of them being age six and younger. They often come in with only the clothes they are wearing.
DVIP has had to reduce their shelter capacity this past year due to COVID to allow for social distancing measures. Because of capacity limitations, DVIP sometimes utilizes hotel shelters for survivors. Partnership with T2T has been helping the organization meet basic food needs differently. Food collected and delivered by Table to Table can go with the families to hotel rooms. T2T has placed an emphasis on funneling more microwavable meals collected from food rescue routes to support families sheltering in hotels.
Ortiz has noticed that since the beginning of the pandemic in Johnson County, local nonprofits have learned how to be creative in their communications with each other to collectively meet the needs of the community they serve. In addition, they’ve learned to provide services in different ways to meet client needs, and DVIP is no exception. Ortiz and his staff have developed a “bed and breakfast” arrangement for some clients that allows them to stay with individuals in private homes, where they have a room and food provided and are able to stay close to their home.
“We [are serving] so many people right now that have been impacted not just by COVID, but also from losing jobs, or are under stress because there are fewer places … to be connected,” Ortiz says. “T2T is not just providing food items, but providing options for people to be safe.”
We thank DVIP for the important work they are doing to help our neighbors and for partnering with us to strengthen their services for survivors.
Thursday, Feb. 25 is DVIP’s 24th Annual Souper Bowl, reimagined to keep everybody safe in light of Covid-19. Learn more here.