Dina Janzen’s interest in volunteering with Table to Table was piqued in January 2007 when she first noticed a volunteer picking up food at a donor partner. Now we’re celebrating Dina’s fifteenth year rescuing food with T2T!
Dina is currently one of three T2T volunteer drivers for what we refer to as our “Big Truck” route, picking up surplus warehouse food donations that account for 31% of the food T2T recovers. This food isn’t short-dated and adds variety to our deliveries, including gluten-free, vegetarian, and organic options. Driving our 22-ft straight truck, Dina stops at warehouse donors and loads literally tons of food on pallets directly into our truck quickly and efficiently.
What’s a key part of the volunteer role for Dina? “I absolutely love connecting with the people inside the backdoors of warehouses, stores and food pantries every week,” she says. “I find it fascinating to observe how the complex systems that exist to rescue all this food are constantly adapting. My part of this system is simple, but my role feels essential. A gratifying volunteer job indeed!”
Dina does what it takes, rain or shine, to make sure we connect great surplus food resources to folks who enjoy the food. We’re so grateful for her and her many years of dedication to our mission and community.
Get to know Dina:
What is one of your favorite food memories? Baskin Robbins, 1972. Sugar cone with two scoops. Coffee ice cream on top of chocolate mint.
What are your hobbies? Sewing, mah-jongg, bicycling around town, jigsaw puzzles, yoga, gardening, and searching for the most interesting AirBnbs.
This week, we are remembering longtime T2T route volunteer, former board member, and donor Al Stang. For years, Al did his Wednesday food rescue route in the 1998 Ford Econoline – our oldest van. You had to crawl into it to get the food all the way in the back. It was only about 6 months before he retired from T2T that he mentioned, “You know, maybe it’s time to retire this van – it’s hard on the knees (well, on my partner’s knees, I don’t get up in there anymore).”
Then, in the summer of 2020, we got a call from him asking how we were doing and how we were handling the loss of so many volunteers during the pandemic. He had heard that in the midst of it all that old van finally broke down. He and his wife Sharon supported the purchase of a new vehicle.
He supported T2T in so many ways: by spreading the word, as a board member, and as a route volunteer – he provided us with a whole collection of T2T rain jackets that still hang in our front hall and are worn by volunteers (and staff) regularly. He was thoughtful and full of ideas and someone you enjoyed spending time with and talking to.
A memorial service is planned for this Saturday, July 9, 2022 at 1:00 PM at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City.
While Mike Saeugling helped stock food donations as a volunteer at CommUnity Food Bank, he regularly interacted with T2T volunteers when they made deliveries of rescued food. So after his wife, Marnie, retired, they decided rescuing food on a route together would be another great way for them to get some quality time volunteering together. We are so glad they did; we can confirm they make a great team!
Now, Mike and Marnie go on a weekly food rescue route together, but they don’t stop there. They pick up additional shifts when we need extra help, and if Marnie isn’t available, Mike will grab his friend Jim Humston to volunteer with him. They’ve helped in multiple ways with our move to Pepperwood Plaza, whether by packing up boxes or painting walls. And as you’ll read below, they really enjoy distributing veggies at produce pop-up stands during the summer and fall. It’s always fun when Mike and Marnie walk through the door to help out!
When asked about a favorite memory volunteering with T2T, Mike relayed the following story:
Late summer of 2021, my wife and I worked several produce distribution pop-up sites around the Iowa City area for T2T. On one occasion we helped to distribute produce that had been shipped from California. Along with California’s finest celery, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and carrots, were eggplants. The plump purple ovoids, familiar to the corn-fed bosom of Iowa, were boxed with a strangely svelte cultivar of that fruit (that the skinny Californian was indeed an eggplant, I would come to learn later). These strangely shaped eggplants raised many an eyebrow and question from other curious Iowans.
One can imagine my repeated consternation and embarrassment, being the official fruit and vegetable purveyor at the pop-up, the assumed on-site expert as it were (my expertise based solely on my position on the opposite side of the table), as I responded lamely, “Uh, I don’t know, never seen one before.”
Now the favorite part of the memory.
For various reasons, it seemed we couldn’t give away an eggplant wrapped in a five-dollar bill. (I must admit, although an eclectic eater, I’d pass on that half-sawbuck too. Nobody likes everything.) But, thanks to our community’s cultural diversity, the question of the oddly lean eggplant was answered. Unfortunately, my idiocy was reconfirmed by the woman who answered my query: “It’s an EGGPLANT,” she said, with the same exasperated look often seen on my wife.
We also learned from an enthusiastic woman how to soak the snot out of okra. A valuable lesson I wish my mother had learned when I was a child. (But okra’s not really a German thing, so credit my mother with at least expanding my horizons.) This woman added that in the country in which she was born, the vegetable-decongesting liquid is then repurposed to treat arthritis. Very cool.
We also shared recipes and anecdotes with numerous other folks from cultures and countries different from our own. Even cooler.
Get to know Marnie and Mike
What’s one of your favorite memories from your time volunteering with Table to Table? I really enjoy working the pop-ups because it gives me an opportunity to meet the people in the community.
What is one thing you would tell new T2T volunteers when they’re first starting out? Table to Table is a great group of people to work with, and you will be part of helping your community.
What do you wish other people knew about Table to Table, food insecurity, and food waste? Table to Table is a great, well-run organization. They do an amazing job of rescuing the tons of edible food that would otherwise be thrown in the trash and distributing it to the many wonderful organizations around town that serve our community.
What are your hobbies? I love to do a variety of crafts (quilting, watercolors, knitting). I also love to cook.
One thing that would surprise someone to learn about me is… I was an Explorer Scout in High School and went to NOLS ( National Outdoor Leadership School) when I was 16. Just not as outdoorsy as I got older.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go? There are so many places I would like to visit. I am looking forward to the end of the pandemic and being able to safely travel. My favorite trip so far was to Croatia; it is a beautiful country.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream (or favorite dessert)? Anything chocolate is great, and cinnamon is a close second.
What are your hobbies? Writing a novel. Reading. Our two dogs.
What is one of your favorite food memories? Roasting whole hogs in the backyard. All-day fun.
One thing that would surprise someone to learn about me is… I’ve been to El Salvador 15 times volunteering with Engineers Without Borders
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go? Ireland
What do you wish other people knew about Table to Table, food insecurity, and food waste? Fight climate change however you can. Compost everything compostable. The City of Iowa City makes it easy.
Bob Hoffman signed up to volunteer with us during a great time of need – March 2020, just as the pandemic began impacting our daily routine. Actually, it’s because of the fact that Bob’s part-time jobs were furloughed and other volunteer activities were suspended that he had the opportunity to volunteer with T2T.
Bob jumped right in and started volunteering on a regular basis, often volunteering twice a week. He did need to take a step back while he was teaching, but as soon as school was out he was back volunteering again and continues to volunteer one or two times each week, often filling in on volunteer shifts as the need arises.
Bob has been up for anything we’ve thrown his way, and we sure do appreciate all of Bob’s help and his positive attitude.
Bob’s advice to new volunteers
How did you first get involved with Table to Table? I heard through Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) that Table to Table was needing volunteers due to the pandemic, so I contacted T2T and started right away.
What’s one of your favorite memories from your time volunteering with Table to Table? After the Fourth of July last year I was subbing on a food rescue route during which we picked up over 2,000 pounds of donations, including thousands of sets of plastic utensils. My route partner for the day and I were wondering what we would do with so many utensils, but our first stop was a HACAP Head Start preschool program. We told them what we had, and the HACAP staff said, “We’ll take them all. We got told yesterday that we could no longer use utensils run through our dishwasher.” It all made me think that the stars were aligned for our work at T2T.
What is one thing you would tell new T2T volunteers when they’re first starting out? Be prepared for anything. You may pick up 180 pounds of food one day and feel as if you didn’t accomplish much, but the next trip may be 1,600 pounds of food that the food pantries are thrilled to get that day to fill their empty shelves and fridges.
What do you wish other people knew about Table to Table and food insecurity? Both the food donors and those who work at the recipient organizations are welcoming and friendly. The donors seem genuinely happy to have the food they won’t be selling going to those in need, and the people at recipient partners want the best for their clients. It’s rewarding to be the “middle man” for those groups.
Get to know Bob
What is one of your favorite food memories? Eating fish soup in Newfoundland- fish fresh caught is nothing like we get here.
What are your hobbies? Playing tuba and going to the theater
One thing that would surprise someone to learn about me is… I played the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz… but not in the movie with Judy Garland
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go? Malta
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream (or favorite dessert)? A Banana Split Polar Bear at Main Street Sweets in West Branch
If you’re having a conversation with Vicki Jaeger, you never know what you may end up talking about. We count on her to share intriguing facts, TV shows to watch, and fun stories when she comes in to volunteer. We also know we can count on her to carry out her regular Saturday morning food rescue route with mastery and dedication. (She shares a little bit of her advice for rescuing food below!)
Vicki is in her sixth year volunteering at Table to Table; she started volunteering with us when she was looking for a way to get involved in our community and her Google search results suggested T2T. She’s been here week after week rescuing thousands of pounds of food ever since.
During the first year of the pandemic, we asked Saturday morning volunteers to take on each of their food rescue routes solo and without T2T staff onsite in order to accommodate resource demands due to the virus. Vicki, along with other regular Saturday morning volunteers, wasn’t deterred. The mighty band of Saturday volunteers carried on with their routes solo and took care of prepping their vans for Monday’s routes, too.
In addition to her food rescue route, Vicki serves on our Resource Development Committee and has a real knack for organizing and analyzing data – she’s an Excel wizard! We are very thankful for Vicki’s continued commitment to our mission and her excitement in engaging with our community.
Are you a new T2T volunteer? Vicki’s got some advice!
What is one thing you would tell new T2T volunteers when they’re first starting out? Packing a box [of food] is like playing Tetris. Also, try to put “like” items with “like.”
What do you wish other people knew about Table to Table, food insecurity, and/or food waste?
Mary Palmberg is someone you might call a “local legend.” Many people in our community have the privilege of knowing Mary, with her energy and enthusiasm to tackle any goal and to, as she puts it, “make the most of her days.” She has worked in the University of Iowa’s Provost Office, has hosted the Helpers Email list connecting 250 volunteers with community needs, and was the Director and Volunteer Coordinator for the Free Lunch Program until 2014, helping secure its current space in the 1105 Project. She’s also been a volunteer at Table to Table since 1998, making her one of our longest-serving volunteers.
Mary’s service with T2T is remarkable for many reasons. Here are a few:
She can rescue any amount of food: a few weeks ago she and her volunteer partner rescued 1900 lbs. of food on one route alone!
We have yet to discover her limit on how many volunteer shifts she can fill in a week: so far this year, she’s clocked more than 100 shifts on food rescue routes, prepping vehicles in the shop, picking up food at the Iowa City Farmers’ Market, and distributing veggies at produce pop-ups.
She is the ultimate food rescue ambassador. She builds great relationships with food donors, increasing their donations and commitment to the mission. She makes T2T deliveries memorable for recipient agencies and their volunteers by delivering food with the best attitude and expressing sincere and heartfelt gratitude for their partnership and work. And she not only volunteers herself, but she brings along countless new volunteers. She uses every opportunity to promote and garner support for the mission. She truly couldn’t do more to be a better ambassador.
Mary has kept Table to Table moving forward all these 23 years she’s been involved, certainly not least of all this last year with all of its changes and unpredictability. Her knowledge and experience in hunger relief efforts combined with her passion for serving our neighbors makes her irreplaceable at Table to Table. Mary is a true example of the impact one person can have on changing a community for the better.
Get to know Mary
How long have you been volunteering with Table to Table? “Since the day I retired from the University of Iowa: February 13, 1998 (and maybe even before that).”
What’s one of your favorite memories from your time volunteering with Table to Table? “I have SO MANY favorite memories … but a unique one was doing a route in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.”
What is one thing you would tell new T2T volunteers when they’re first starting out? “To be very friendly, appreciative, and helpful to the people at [food] donor sites.”
What do you wish other people knew about Table to Table, food insecurity, and food waste? “Table to Table makes staff at [food] donor sites feel very good about their products not going to waste. T2T makes a huge difference in the budgets and food offerings of its recipient partners.” [She’s right! The food T2T delivers would cost partners hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase. And T2T-rescued food accounts for 60% of the food most pantries in Johnson County distribute.]
What is one of your favorite food memories? “Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzards made with chocolate DQ—shared with my T2T partner Nancy Weber after most of our Tuesday morning T2T routes during the Riverside Drive Dairy Queen’s season.”
One thing that would surprise someone to learn about me is… “I biked from ocean-to-ocean across the U.S. twice (in 2000, Virginia to Oregon; and in 2003, California to Florida), and the length of the Mississippi River twice (in 1999 south from St. Paul to New Orleans; and in 2007 from New Orleans to Lake Itasca) on trips with small groups of cyclists.”
Jim Bradbury and Jeff Knox are the perfect “pear!” (Literally, they were the original recipients of Table to Table’s “Quite the ‘Pear'” award, bestowed upon route volunteer duos that make an incredible team.) These two have been volunteering together at Table to Table for five years. As the story goes, back in 2016 a friend told Jeff that volunteering at T2T is a lot of fun. Jeff talked his friend Jim into volunteering with him, and the two have been volunteering together ever since.
If we ever wanted to convince people that rescuing food is not only important but also can be a whole lot of fun, these are two of the people we’d choose to do the convincing. T2T staff look forward to Fridays when these two come in for their route because they will undoubtedly bring lots of laughs and smiles to our faces. We are so thankful for their service and look forward to many more opportunities to smile!
A little about Jeff
What is/was your occupation? Speech pathologist, Grant Wood AEA, Iowa City Schools, Adjunct Professor at St. Ambrose University
What’s one of your favorite memories from your time volunteering with T2T? It’s just fun.
What do you wish other people know about T2T, food insecurity, and food waste? It’s amazing how much food we collect, and how much food is used each week.
What are your hobbies? Filling out surveys. (I think he’s pulling our leg here.)
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Any flavor of ice cream
A little about Jim
What is/was your occupation? Mechanical engineer
What’s one of your favorite memories from your time volunteering with T2T? One time we had a full pallet of frozen chicken and were thankful that they were already boxed. That was a 2,000 lbs. day for us!
What is one thing you would tell new T2T volunteers when they’re first starting out? Get to know the people that you pick up food from and those you drop off to. These are really great people that want to help those that are food insecure.
What do you wish other people knew about Table to Table, food insecurity, and food waste? The problem of food insecurity and food waste is a big deal, and what we do is important.
What are your hobbies? Golf
What is your favorite dessert? It always has to include chocolate cake and ice cream.
Marcia and Dan began volunteering at Table to Table in January of 2020. They had recently moved to Iowa City from the Chicago area and were looking for a way to get involved in the community and meet new people. Upon the recommendation of Marcia’s sister-in-law, who had previously volunteered at T2T, they gave us a call. Since that time they both have helped out in several different ways.
Marcia and Dan currently go on a weekly food rescue route together. On top of that, they will pick up another route from time to time when there’s a need. Marcia also serves on the Volunteer Engagement Committee, has lent her expertise for our volunteer training initiatives, and has helped pick up fresh garden produce donations.
On top of the routes that Dan does with Marcia, he often answers the bell when called to sub on volunteer shifts, which include retail food rescue routes, produce pick-up routes, special distributions, and Saturday routes. Both Dan and Marcia have helped with fresh food box distributions as well as developing policies based around infection prevention at the beginning of the pandemic.
We sure are glad that Marcia had that conversation with her sister-in-law!
Get to know Marcia and Dan
What is one thing you would tell new Table to Table volunteers when they’re first starting out? I think it is helpful to understand, respect and appreciate all the people that contribute to food rescue for those in need. Building relationships is helpful during this process.
What do you wish other people knew about T2T and food insecurity? Individual actions can really help someone who is in need.
One thing that would surprise someone to learn about me is… I grew up on a farm in central Iowa with 12 siblings. I went to a one-room schoolhouse for a couple of years before the school bus would pick us up for town school. Dan and I have lived in Texas, San Francisco Bay Area and a suburb of Chicago before moving to Iowa City.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream (or favorite dessert)? Chocoholic from Heyn’s
When asked about what he would share with new T2T volunteers when they’re first starting out, Dan emphasized the unique experience of partnering with a variety of other community members. It has been an unusual year working with T2T during the pandemic. Marcia and I worked with several different [volunteer] partners when we started training. But when we came back after T2T restarted routes last year, we have only worked together. It was interesting getting to know some of the other volunteers while sharing a ride in the truck — I miss that.
What are your hobbies? I am a racquetball player and a bike rider.
One thing that would surprise someone to learn about me is… I am a three-time state champion in my division in racquetball.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go? I would like to spend a summer in Europe.
Loyal came to Table to Table because he had heard a report on NPR about how food insecurity was being exacerbated by the pandemic, and he wanted to find a way to jump in and help. Loyal started volunteering here in October of 2020 and has been busy helping out ever since, volunteering twice a week, helping out both in the shop and on food rescue routes. In fact, on more than one occasion, Loyal has gotten back from his route and stayed to lend a hand in the shop because he saw that we could use more help. We are grateful for his time and talent and know that he is having a positive impact on our community. Thanks Loyal!
Fun Facts about Loyal
What’s one of your favorite memories from your time volunteering with Table to Table? My route partner, Eliza, and I once picked up a bit over 1,700 pounds in one trip! It’s definitely not the all-time record, but it sure stood out to me as a great morning.
What is one of your favorite food memories?
I really liked the movie It (Stephen King) when I was a kid, so when I was in the fourth grade, my mom made me a Pennywise birthday cake, complete with the clown nose, fangs, and crazy hair.
What are your hobbies?
When the weather is nice, I enjoy spending my free time geocaching, but if I’m stuck inside, you’ll probably find me crocheting.
Steve Gallagher doesn’t know a stranger. He loves to get to know new people and engage in discussion – as he says himself, one thing people would be surprised to learn about him is that he is in fact “capable of having a brief conversation!” (but we greatly enjoy our long chats with him). He began volunteering with Table to Table two years ago and “never looked back,” quickly forming many friendships and becoming an indispensable part of the team.
Steve spends much of his time helping to lead our Straight Truck Program. We utilize our 26-foot refrigerated straight truck (affectionately referred to as “The Big Truck”) to rescue 900,000 pounds of food each year. Steve volunteers as one of our truck drivers, and he is also in charge of training new drivers as well as overseeing routine maintenance. He brings 40 years of experience as a driver for Hawkeye Foodservice/US Foods to his volunteer role.
Steve first learned of T2T through another volunteer, Dick Braverman, and was curious to find out more about what we do, so he signed up to volunteer soon after leaving full-time employment. “I think many people might begin volunteering at T2T because they have some time available and would like to give back to the community,” Steve says. “What they may or may not realize is just how great the emotional reward can be for doing so. There may be ‘warm fuzzies’ you might not have expected.”
Steve’s work is essential in helping T2T rescue tons (literally) of good food each week. “The pandemic has driven home the point that anyone can experience food insecurity. To be a part of diverting food that would otherwise go to waste and helping diminish hunger in some measure is truly a valid mission.”
When Steve isn’t rescuing food, he’s enjoying one of his many hobbies: walking, hiking, bicycle riding, reading, birdwatching, going to live events at regional venues, keeping up with local and global current events, sharing a meal with friends, spending time with his grandchildren in Florida, or playing an “occasional, low-stakes slot machine.” Someday he would love to go on a multi-day trip by rail with his spouse.
One of his favorite food-related memories comes from when he was growing up with his three older siblings. “Our mom would bake us the cake of our choice for our birthday. Mine was always confetti angel food cake with maraschino cherry-flavored buttercream frosting. Yum!” This may be what kicked off his “chronic sweet tooth!”
We are very grateful to have Steve on board as a T2T volunteer and know that our Straight Truck Program is in good hands. If you see Steve around, make sure to tell him “thank you” for bringing his knowledge, enthusiasm, and humor to his work at T2T!