It Takes a Village…to raise a Food Rescue to the Next Level

It’s been a year of transition and bringing enthusiastic new team members into the operation at Table to Table. We’d like to take a few minutes to recognize the contributions of the staff, student leaders, and AmeriCorps team since last summer. 

Four individuals stand under a red tent, next to a table full of boxes of red berries

Staff Team Transitions & Additions

We bid a fond farewell to Program Coordinator Ezra Schley in July 2022, who had been with us since summer 2020. That September, Chaim Jensen joined T2T as our newly-titled Logistics & Relationships Coordinator. Having worked on the supply side of the food system for years, Chaim understands all too well the barriers and opportunities to reduce food waste. His work also helps T2T build and maintain relationships with food donor partners. He says he “was attracted to the problem-solving aspect of the position, knowing that no two days are the same.” He’s right: that’s the very nature of food rescue!

T2T added a new (and proven essential!) full-time staff position to our team in November 2022. Operations Coordinator Elizabeth Wagner was first introduced to T2T in her work at longtime food donor partner New Pioneer Co-op, where she developed an interest in the local food system and got to know food vendors and producers. “I was really drawn to T2T’s community-focused approach and dedication to fighting food waste,” she says. “Community engagement and sustainability are two passions of mine.” Her new position improves our software and data abilities, supports our fleet and facility, and ensures daily operations run smoothly to support T2T’s growth.

Gina stands next to an open T2T van holding a box of foodProgram Assistant Steve Noack, known as a friendly face to greet volunteers and launch them on their food rescue routes each morning, fully retired (motivated in part by his adorable new grandson) in fall 2022. The team welcomed Gina Hudson into this part-time role in December, with the new, more-descriptive title of Dispatcher & Driver. Gina brings her volunteer experience at food banks and farm animal sanctuaries to this role that involves much communication with volunteers, food donors, and food access partner organizations. “It is a human right to have access to food and to nutritious food,” she says. “I believe this is also a crucial environmental issue by rescuing the food and keeping it out of the landfills where food becomes a substantial contributor to climate change.”

AmeriCorps Service Members

At the end of 2022, Table to Table bid a fond farewell to our Data Systems Coordinator, Alex Courtney. Each day since we’ve utilized software he helped us tailor to our specific food recovery needs during his AmeriCorps service term and later as a part-time staff member. At the beginning of Alex’s service in early 2021, T2T was tracking over two million pounds of 10,000+ food pick-ups and deliveries, 150 partnerships, and hundreds of volunteers on paper and in Excel spreadsheets. Alex ushered our technology into the twenty-first century, enabling us to analyze all sorts of data points that tell us about food sourcing, distribution, and to understand critical patterns in the hunger relief network as a whole. With this data at our fingertips, we can take action to improving our network and continue to connect as much nutritious food as possible to our most vulnerable neighbors. (Join a virtual demonstration of this technology in action on November 29!)Lillian, Nora, and Alex hold a box with huge leafy greens spilling out.

In November 2022, Nora Garda completed her second service term as AmeriCorps Gleaning Coordinator through the ISU 4-H Outreach program. Nora helped lead T2T to recovering more than 40,000 pounds of local produce during the 2022 growing seasons. Hear her love for connecting fresh food from the growing community to our neighbors straight from Nora: she wrote this insightful reflection on a gleaning season after her first service term in 2021. 

Throughout summer 2022, two local produce recovery AmeriCorps service members supported this work. Molly Suter worked closely with Nora in gleaning coordination to schedule and lead gleans with local farmers and volunteers. Alyssa Schaeffer planned and implemented T2T’s free produce stands. She helped create a regular produce stand schedule and reached additional folks through free produce coolers for self-service at community events.

Molly stands in a farm field holding a green tote of zucchiniAlso in summer 2022, seasonal AmeriCorps service member Lillian Poulsen developed food access education and diversity, equity, and inclusion training materials requested by food recipient partner agencies. “Supporting marginalized communities, especially in terms of better equipping volunteers and other people who want to help, drew me to this position. I’ve always been someone who’s willing to listen and wants to hear stories from others,” she says of the role.

Ngonyo Mungara joined the team as a COVID-19 Recovery AmeriCorps member during the first half of 2023 for general food rescue program support to support route based rescue and increase food donations. “It was a pleasure to get to know volunteers from so many different walks of life and learn why they like volunteering for Table to Table,” she says of one of her favorite aspects of the role. “I liked that each day was something different; you never get bored at T2T!” During her tenure she took our first steps in partnering with grocers offering specific cultural foods. She is excited to see this program to access culturally appropriate foods continues to grow. She notes, “Johnson County is becoming an increasingly diverse area and there is a need for more culturally relevant foods in pantries to support these communities.” 

Marquis and Lisa stand in front of an open T2T van full of tomato boxesLisa Truong and Marquis Heard served as local produce recovery AmeriCorps members in summer 2023. Lisa took on farm, orchard, and garden glean coordination, forming relationships with new partners and coordinating at least 25 gleans during her four month term. She also transitioned the program to a regular schedule that fit farmer needs, an enhancement that increased gleaning opportunities and produce output. As a bonus, she frequently baked veggie-based desserts to share. Vegetables + Desserts = Delicious! Marquis coordinated free produce stands, setting a regular schedule for each produce stand location and helping to translate free produce stand materials. We’re so happy he is continuing his service at T2T in a yearlong term through Green Iowa AmeriCorps.

Practicum & Internship Students

Amiya Jones sought out T2T as a partner for completing her Masters in Social Work practicum during the 2022-2023 school year. She was excited to learn more about environmental and food justice work in nonprofits through working closely with T2T executive director Nicki Ross. “I have always been passionate about food insecurity and building self sustaining communities within my journey as a social worker,” she said of her role. Amiya supported T2T’s efforts to revise our mission statement and implement values, practices, and training to support equity and access initiatives. 

Lauren Wegmann, a student in marketing and philanthropy, jumped right into helping T2T plan our annual dinner in spring 2023. Her enthusiasm helped T2T surpass our fundraising goal for the event!

Chaim, Gina, and Nicki point to a food rescue clipboard and laugh.Whew! So many transitions and so many wonderful team members!

With all those transitions, the rest of the crew can’t be overlooked: we continued to have throughout fiscal year 2023 our seasoned Executive Director Nicki Ross, Communications & Development Coordinator Anne Langebartels (now Hlavacek), Volunteer Coordinator Jared Long, part-time Bookkeeper, Celia Eckermann, and Programs & Services Manager Allison Gnade, who celebrated one year in the role this past February

View our current staff & Board of Directors team on our website.