Table to Table rescues and delivers half the food distributed to hungry people in Johnson County.
We are requesting financial donations and seeking temporary volunteers not in high-risk groups for Covid-19 to continue our local food rescue operations. As of Monday, March 23, we have temporarily paused operations for the first time in 24 years to restructure and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. We must adjust to account for a temporary critical reduction in volunteers that transport the food to agencies throughout Johnson County that feed the hungry. We plan to re-initiate food rescue operations on Thursday, March 26, 2020.
As a volunteer-based operation, we are experiencing a critical shortage of volunteers, which contribute the hours that would otherwise have to be done by nine full-time staff. This current crisis has hit our volunteer force hard. On Friday, March 20, volunteers at high risk for hospitalization or death as a result of Covid-19 infection were asked to temporarily suspend their volunteer service. Due to the vast majority of our volunteers being older individuals and college students, 80% of our volunteers are no longer available to transport food to the hungry in Johnson County.
Our volunteers collect and redistribute 40,000 pounds of food each week, and this food is needed now more than ever. The food insecurity landscape in Johnson County is changing rapidly, with neighbors needing access to basic necessities as they experience unpaid time off or closures of other social services. As our partner organizations’ resources become scarce and the need continues to grow, they will need these 40,000 pounds of food per week more than ever.
We need community support to bring operations back up to full capacity. Financial donations are critical at this time, as we will likely need to hire a temporary staff driver to make up for the significant volunteer force deficit. To donate, please visit www.table2table.org/donateonline.
Community members who do not fall into high-risk groups for Covid-19, have not traveled recently or come into contact with individuals infected with the virus, and who are feeling well and Covid-19 symptom-free are encouraged to lend a hand with food rescue route volunteering. To volunteer, contact us at email@example.com or call (319) 337-3400.
Table to Table is continuing to rescue food with additional safety precautions in place. Table to Table delivers more than 40,000 pounds of food each week to thousands of people who need it. Our mission to feed our most vulnerable neighbors is especially critical right now — people will need access to basic necessities more than ever if they experience unpaid time off or closures of other social services.
We are working to continue our operations to the best of our ability, and the safety and well-being of our recipients, volunteers, food donors and staff is our top priority. We are reducing and restructuring routes to limit contact between people as much as possible, increasing the frequency of our cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and requiring volunteers/staff to stay home if they are not feeling well.
More than half of our regular volunteers are at high risk for complications from COVID-19 or have a close family member who is vulnerable. They must temporarily suspend their volunteer duties for their safety or the safety of their family.
While we have reduced the number of daily food rescue routes, we will still need additional volunteers in order to continue operations. Any individual who is well and not at high risk for this illness who is interested in providing volunteer support, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 319-337-3400. We need help boxing and loading food from grocery stores and transporting food to local food pantries and shelters. Table to Table vehicles are provided. Food rescue routes run 8 a.m.-noon Monday-Saturday, and typically take 2-3 hours. Please also consider making a financial donation to help us pay for fuel, vehicle maintenance and staffing needed to continue our operation. Go to https://table2table.org/donateonline/
We are closely monitoring recommendations by the CDC and Iowa Department of Public Health and will continue making adjustments to our services and operations as needed. Thank for supporting hunger relief in Johnson County. Working together is a cornerstone of our mission, we trust we will get through this crisis by continuing to do just that.
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 email@example.com