Table to Table expands food rescue operation, seeks additional drivers

A table to Table van is loaded with baked goods before heading to Salvation Army and Johnson County Crisis Center Food Bank. -- photo by Adam Burke
A table to Table van is loaded with baked goods before heading to Salvation Army and Johnson County Crisis Center Food Bank. — photo by Adam Burke

For nearly twenty years, an Iowa City organization has undertaken the rescue of millions of pounds of food to share with the hungry, homeless and at-risk. Table to Table (T2T) is a non-profit that saves food that would otherwise be tossed in the dumpster, and instead, brings it to food pantries and shelters in Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin and Solon.

In Johnson County alone, 18,000 adults and over 4,000 children experienced food insecurity last year, and it’s T2T’s mission to help fill some of those empty stomachs with unused food from restaurants and grocery stores. In 2014, for example, they saved 1.39 million pounds of food from getting tossed, and instead redistributed it to agencies, shelters and food pantries that helped thousands of people in the area.

T2T’s volunteer coordinator David Wellendorf said his group added eight new routes last year, and now they need more drivers to deliver the foodstuffs gleaned from donors.

Picking up from New Pioneer Co-op, HyVee, farmers markets, the Iowa Memorial Union and dozens of other donors, volunteers run routes to serve those in need and the need is expanding.

Pantries have been springing up around the area, including two in Tiffin, but the big three are the Johnson County Crisis Center Food Bank in Iowa City, the North Liberty Community Pantry and the Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry.

Opening multiple pantries helps those who can’t drive, Wellendorf said.

Those on the east side of Iowa City who would otherwise need to find transportation to the Crisis Center Food Bank can now visit the ICCompassion Food Pantry, formerly River Food Pantry. The pantry, run by Teresa Stecker, serves 50-70 households per week and also has a community meal on Wednesday where 100 community members, about half of whom are young people, can enjoy a hot and healthy meal.

“We would not be able to do the community meal without Table to Table,” she said. “We are honored to partner with Table to Table, its staff and volunteers to respond to food insecurity in our community.”

Table to Table tailors specific items to some of their recipients, like cookies and cakes for community meals.

“Our community members get excited when their favorites are on the shelf,” Stecker said.

ICCompassion Food Pantry is open on Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. for community members in need and is open to receive food donations on Tuesdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In North Liberty, Tina DuBois, the executive director of of the North Liberty Food Pantry, said, “As needs have increased over the last several years, Table to Table has provided more and more food for the families we serve.”

Her pantry serves 1,600 individuals per year with over 700 visits per month. T2T donations have helped NLFP distribute more food with modest increases in their food budget.

NLFP is open five days per week (see below for schedule).

The Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry (CEFP) served over 2,000 people last year with 140,000 pounds of food.

“Table to Table rescues a crazy amount of high-quality food that neither our organization or the people we serve could ever dream of purchasing,” said John Boller, Executive Director of CEFP. “Without them, we would struggle to meet the increasing need for food assistance.”

They’re looking for more volunteers to run routes Monday through Friday. T2T needs to fill two and half hour slots from 8 a.m. to noon. Their five vans are in use every day and volunteers take heart in the fact that the work they do, sometimes moving a ton of food in one day, has an immediate impact on people who need help.

“What our volunteers do affects the person who needs it that day,” Wellendorf said. He’s looking for more volunteers and to find out how to help alleviate hunger and increase food accessibility, contact David Wellendorf at T2T or call Table to Table at 337-3400.

Table to Table ready to load food from waterfront Hy-Vee store  in Iowa City — photo by Adam Burke
Table to Table prepares to load food from waterfront Hy-Vee store in Iowa City. — photo by Adam Burke

Local food pantries and schedules for food pickup

Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry
203 1st Street
Coralville, IA 52241

Open on Tuesday, 2-6 p.m. and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

North Liberty Food Pantry
89 North Jones Boulevard
North Liberty, Iowa 52317

Open on Monday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., Tuesday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 3-6 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 3-6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Johnson County Crisis Center Food Bank
1121 Gilbert Court
Iowa City, IA 52240

Open on Monday 12 – 4:30 p.m., Tuesday 12 – 7:00 p.m., Wednesday 12 – 4:30 p.m., Thursday 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Friday 12 – 4:30 p.m.

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