By February of 2020, Table to Table (T2T) was poised to report another year of tremendous community effort. We were on track to rescue more than 2 million pounds of food. We spent the fall of 2019 adding to our team and working on process improvements. Like all of you, we could not have envisioned how our year would end or that our new team and improved systems would be so thoroughly put to the test.
Our first and most significant challenge was losing 80% of our volunteers in March. Students left campus and uncertainty about safety led us to ask volunteers at high-risk for COVID complications to take a break. The City of Iowa City, Aero Rental, Bur Oak Land Trust, and more than 60 new and returning volunteers stepped up to continue the mission.
Amid major disruptions in the food system, we received calls to rescue 120,000 pounds of food from food transport drivers, hotels, farms, and food processors, all of which was above and beyond the 45,000 pounds we regularly rescue each week.
Letting any nutritious food go to waste at a time when some of our hunger relief partners were serving double and triple the number of people in need is simply unacceptable. For our neighbors enduring this health and financial crisis, T2T deliveries are the difference between families nourishing themselves with good protein, fresh fruits, and veggies or filling their bellies with food that is plentiful, cheap, and far less nutritious.
During this time, T2T delivered enough food for at least one nutritious meal per day for every food insecure family in Johnson County. We have more work to do to meet the full need.
Over 24 years, Table to Table has become known for our strong community relationships and our reliability. This year, we add something else to that list…resiliency. For T2T, resiliency is a culmination of resources only possible because of you. We have seen the community come together, like never before, to join us in ensuring that despite the pandemic, people are getting the nutrition they need.
Because of your unprecedented contributions of money and time, we were able to rise to the challenges presented by the pandemic and accomplish more than we ever imagined.
Please continue to stand with us—to lend us your hands, your time, and your resources—so our community members can continue to
rely on us to ensure that everybody has access to fresh, healthy food for themselves and their families.
Creativity is key to stretching budgets and taking advantage of good, free food.
How do you keep over 2.4 million lbs of wholesome, edible food from going to waste every year? You count on partnerships with organizations that can deliver this food directly to people who need it. Table to Table volunteers to pick up food and deliver it to more than 50 agencies that serve hungry, homeless, and at-risk populations in Johnson County. That’s estimated to be 2 million meals delivered in the form of groceries or prepared and served by the staff of those agencies. Table to Table has 40 routes per week that pick up from many different types of donors. Restaurants, bakeries, hospitals, food warehouses — volunteers arrive not knowing what they will be loading in the vans. It also means the organizations won’t know exactly what food they will be getting when the van stops at their location.
Dairy, meat, produce or baked goods, kitchen managers and chefs work with what they receive to plan menus and meals for the people they serve every day. These organizations are a model of flexibility and creativity which enables them to use just about anything that may be delivered on a T2T truck. Since the food is delivered for free, it also significantly decreases their food budgets. They can reallocate the funds they would have spent on food to feed people on other essential services they provide to our community.
Watch the short videos below to hear more from two of these organizations’ staff that work closely with Table to Table.
We know you’ll be as impressed as we are by all they’re doing to feed people and build community with food and service.
Salvation Army Chef Allen Sanders
Allen Sanders grew up in Rockford, Illinois and moved to Iowa City 33 years ago to cook at the University of Iowa. When he retired from the university he was missing what he’d been doing his entire life, so he went to work at Salvation Army Soup Kitchen.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” said Sanders. “The volunteers here are great. We are a good team. Table to Table helps us so much with the food they provide. You never know what’s going to show up in the trucks. Every day is something different, but I always find a way to to utilize what I get and make the best meal I can make.”
Shelter House Kitchen Manager Cartis Washington
Cartis Washington, Kitchen Manager at Shelter House, has cooked his entire life. Cartis’s experience cooking many different types of restaurant cuisines has given him a unique way to plan meals and menus. It could be Asian, Italian, Spanish or Soul – he likes to switch things up when he’s making meals. Shelter House provides three meals a day and Table to Table helps out in many different ways with food. A hearty breakfast, take away meals for drop in clients and a hot dinner.
When Cartis is not working he’s spending time with his four year old daughter at the library or the Children’s Museum. He likes to try and get her to try new foods, which can be a challenge. We imagine his creativity in the kitchen and experience feeding hundreds of different people each year gives him an advantage when sitting down to eat with a toddler.
Many of our regular food rescue volunteers have stepped up to do more than ever before during the COVID-19 crisis, rescuing food on several routes per week and bringing their friends and families along to help. These individuals ensure that our program continues operating and ease onboarding the influx of new emergency volunteers with their experience and willingness to adapt. Several volunteers have also offered to be on call in case we need to fill a route or if a special mission comes up. Thanks to their efforts, we can establish a sense of familiarity with our restructured routes for both regular and new volunteers.
Our volunteers are truly our #helpers in time of great need.
By Rachel Gentile, Student in the University of Iowa Career Leadership Academy
According to The National Resources Defense Council, the average American throws away nearly 200 pounds of food annually. This accounts for 43% of all food waste in America, more than grocery stores and restaurants combined. And as you might expect, household food waste is at an all-time high during the holiday season.
With so many delicious foods to enjoy during the holiday season, how do you decide which dish to cook? It’s so hard to choose a favorite dish, so why not make them all — right? This may be our natural response, but it only leaves us with mountains of leftovers that usually get thrown away.
We’ve put together a few tips to eliminate, repurpose, and prolong the life of food from the festive holiday season!
Proper portion sizes
Come the holiday season, it is hard to estimate how much everyone is going to eat. However, the website savethefood.com has an interactive “Guest-Imator,” which is a handy tool that helps you plan how much food to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner. You simply input how many people you are expecting, how many leftovers you want, and the type of meal (accommodating any food restrictions). The Guest-Imator then generates a recommended portion of meat, vegetables, casseroles, side dishes, and, of course, dessert! This easy online tool helps take stress out of the holiday season and finalize a menu just for you and your family.
We have all experienced the dreaded moment you realize you have forgotten an ingredient for Thanksgiving dinner. Last-minute trips to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day are nothing short of chaotic! Everyone is bustling through the aisles grabbing the last cans of cranberries and green beans – what a mess!
This is why it is so important to do your holiday shopping early and learn how to store your food properly until the big day. This will help keep you and your food fresh and fun.
Need to learn a few food waste and storage basics? https://table2table.org/dont-throw-it-out-food-waste-101/
And learn how long your fridge food actually lasts: https://table2table.org/use-by-best-by-sell-by/
We hope these resources save you from having to wait in a checkout line that lasts longer than your anticipated holiday dinner.
While eating a Thanksgiving meal is exciting, multiple leftover dinners can become a bit boring. Let’s learn to repurpose and invigorate great side-dishes into a fresh new meal!
Check out our Youtube page for lots of helpful videos where our Food Rescue Program Manager, Emily, takes you through a few of her favorite recipes that help use up those otherwise commonly-wasted ingredients. Read more about her food-saving recipes and tips here: https://table2table.org/10-meals-excess-ingredient/
How can you support Table to Table a little extra during #GivingTuesday, the largest worldwide social media fundraising event of the year?
You can set up your own Facebook fundraiser for your friends to make donations toward our work!
This #GivingTuesday, I’m raising funds for local food rescue Table to Table. T2T recovers excess food from grocery stores, farms, & restaurants and delivers it to hunger relief agencies. Since March, T2T has served 14,800 people through recipient partners. Access to fresh, healthy food is always needed, but this year especially T2T’s food rescue operations have been critical for many of our neighbors.
T2T has rescued over 22 million pounds of food since 1996 — 2.3 million pounds just this past year. Will you help me support Table to Table’s work by making a donation today?
Thanks for supporting our mission during #GivingTuesday. Our work wouldn’t be possible without you!