On the morning of Saturday March 3rd, 2018, I walk into Grace Lutheran Church for the Feed Greater Des Moines conference, eager to learn about Des Moines’ food systems and what is being done here to help those in need. Right of the bat I got what I was looking for with the first keynote speaker, Nick Kuhn. Kuhn graduated with a degree in civil engineering but was never truly satisfied with what he was doing. He started a food truck business with the Justice League of Food and began looking for ways to give back to the community. He and the food trucks started by donating leftover food to the Central Iowa Shelter and Services (CISS) but realized that was simply a Band-Aid for those at the shelter and not really solving any long-term problems that the residents at CISS face. He knew he could be doing more by ‘teaching a man to fish’ instead of ‘giving a man a fish’ so he bought a space in Valley Junction that has a bar and a commercial kitchen. This opened up an opportunity for the chefs of the food trucks to rent and have an adequate space to prepare meals for the day, as long as the chefs agreed to take on residents of CISS as apprentices and workers. This is great for the residents of CISS who get into the program because they have a chance to make a living wage and learn valuable skills for future job opportunities in the food industry. This is just a small summary of Kuhn’s operation that is growing and taking off.
I found his story very inspiring and it’s not done yet. I believe he is constantly looking for ways to improve what he’s doing in his own project and what he can be doing for the community around him. I struggle to remember that there is always something that can be done to help those in need, and this conference has reminded me of countless ways to better our community and better the lives of those in the community. Food insecurity was a large topic discussed at the conference whether it was surrounding those who live at CISS or families who are the working poor and don’t always have enough to buy food. This topic relates directly to Next Course Food Recovery here at Drake which I have the pleasure of working for out of the Community Engaged Learning & Service office as a Service Learning Ambassador.
Food recovery, or rescue, is something that I have become very passionate about within my first year at Drake. This new position I have taken on has allowed me to network and learn more about what is happening locally and globally in the food scene. I think it’s very important to attend conferences like Feed Greater Des Moines and other local or nationwide conferences to tell stories of success and stories of loss, to learn what other service systems are out there, and to realize how we all fit together in the larger picture of our shared goals of social, environmental and food justice for all. I strongly believe that if we collaborate together, advocate for each other, and keep pushing forward for equal opportunities for all, in good time, we can achieve these goals together.
By: Catie Mullen