Home gardeners know the satisfaction that comes from using homegrown vegetables to prepare family-pleasing meals. Feed Iowa First offers the same benefit to Linn County residents without the financial means to plant a backyard garden or even, in some cases, visit a grocery store.
Food insecurity is caused by numerous factors, says Carter Oswood, who leads the Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit. Sometimes, it’s due to insufficient public transportation, which means a family can’t get to the grocery store; other times it’s due to the high cost of food, which means a family can’t afford to purchase the nutritious food they need.
Whatever the cause, Oswood and his team are committed to delivering on a promise to provide fresh, locally-grown produce to Cedar Rapids residents at no cost. “There are lots of logistics to manage, but with the help of so many enthusiastic volunteers, people from 8 years of age to 80, we get it done,” says Oswood. “It’s especially rewarding to see young people learn about the life cycle of a plant and the transformation from seed to harvest.”
People with consistent access to fresh produce tend to be healthier and happier, Oswood says, and a healthier, happier population makes for a stronger economy, one where businesses grow and residents have access to a wide range of career opportunities. But how do Oswood and his team get fresh produce from 28 local farms to so many residents in need?
After the food is harvested, Feed Iowa First distributes fresh vegetables such as potatoes, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and squash to neighborhoods across town. Staff and volunteers drive through targeted areas in the Veggie Van, visiting with residents as they go. Along the way, volunteers learn which foods residents need to fill their pantries and refrigerators.
In September, Feed Iowa First celebrated its 10th anniversary, an important milestone, says Oswood, who started off as a volunteer with the nonprofit. Every October, Feed Iowa First organizes a Garlic Cracking event, during which participants ‘crack’ open garlic bulbs to prepare them for planting. Last year, the nonprofit started an Equitable Land Access program to connect residents with an agricultural background to fertile land that they can cultivate themselves.
Feed Iowa First has delivered over 48,000 pounds of high-quality food this year. Plans for future expansion include actively seeking opportunities to purchase farmland for increased vegetable production, and partnering with local schools to implement educational programs.
Feed Iowa First
1506 10th St. SE
Ph: (319) 775-0149
Learn more about Feed Iowa First at www.feediowa1st.com.