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The Pandemic Has Inspired New Ways To Get Food To Those In Need

courtesy of Hy-Vee
Hy-Vee has coordinated several giveaways this pandemic spring, including watermelons, bananas and carrots.

This pandemic spring has changed some pathways of getting food to hungry people, but there’s still plenty being donated and distributed to meet the increased need.

West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee, with stores in eight states, often makes donations to food banks, says Christina Gayman, director of public relations. But right now, many of its suppliers have approached the chain for help distributing their surplus. 

“They know that we have either the food bank contacts or the media contacts to share this information in local communities,” Gayman says. So, Hy-Vee acts as a conduit between the wholesalers and consumers or food banks.

Hy-Vee has arranged contact-less distribution of mangoes, carrots and bananas in several communities. It also coordinated a 40,000-pound donation of watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe to the Food Bank of Iowa. 

Director Michelle Book says the food pantries that receive donations from the Food Bank are grateful. 

“It is not difficult for us to find a home for food right now,” she says. In fact, some local pantries were ordering several times their normal amounts, and the Food Bank of Iowa had to limit orders to double pre-pandemic levels. But Book says another truck is coming online and that will help with distribution in the 55 Iowa counties the bank serves. 

Gayman and Book both say some of the recent donations have reflected changes in supply chains as most restaurants either closed or switched to take-out only in March. That can lead to donations that reflect institutional, rather than household, consumption patterns. 

Book says the Food Bank of Iowa received 25-pound tubs of hard-boiled eggs. 

“We were able to break those down into family-size portions and then get them out to our food pantries for people to take home and eat,” she says. “Where they would have had it at a restaurant, they’re now eating it at home.”

Book says the Food Bank also has received large donations of lunch meat from delis. 

At Hy-Vee, Gayman says most limits on meat purchases that were introduced a few weeks ago have been lifted, with the exception of ground beef. She says Hy-Vee has seen few disruptions. The chain’s supply lines and sales, including meat and produce, have been consistent during the weeks that most people have been cooking and eating almost entirely at home.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames