Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey was in town Tuesday, August 22, as he is making his trip to unique food or agriculture sites throughout the year. Previously, Northey had visited Oskaloosa Food Products on 9th Avenue East. Yesterday, Northey was at SHARE Iowa on South 7th Street to tour the facilities and learn about the packaged food distribution.
SHARE Iowa started 18 years ago as a non-profit organization. Today, it is ran, maintained and labored by a large volunteer base. SHARE contacts food buyers from around the county to purchase high quality food at wholesale prices in large quantities. Volunteers come into the SHARE warehouse to sort, bag and assemble the food to ship out to our many SHARE distribution locations. In total, there are 85 locations across Iowa and the neighboring states. Iowa, however, harbors roughly 65 of them.
Map of the various SHARE locations in Iowa.
Becky Newman, Directory of SHARE Iowa Oskaloosa, along with Community Developer Michael Kacmarynski walked Northey through the process of receiving food, storing it, then packaging it all in a month’s time for over a thousand orders.
Northey was in awe of the work being done at the Oskaloosa SHARE Iowa location. He hopes to plan meetings with the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, and other organizations like it, to provide SHARE with connections for local, homegrown produce.
As volunteers are busy assembling the packages, Newman and Kacmarynski show Ag. Secretary, Bill Northey, around the Oskaloosa SHARE Iowa location.
Upon speaking with Newman, she said even local stores, particularly Hy-Vee, throw out a lot of their unsold produce or freshly made counter food. James Brandriff, a volunteer on the Board of Directors, takes time from his day to stop at Hy-Vee to pick up those still fresh items that can be stored at SHARE for packages.
Newman mentioned that SHARE “is not a social service. It is neighbor helping neighbor.” Talking of food stamps being available for those families and individuals with low-income leaves the middle class with practically nothing in terms of assistance. So that’s what the SHARE organization is there for. Although SHARE receives no government funding, it manages well with a turnaround profit from the packages sold each month. There are only two full-time and two part-time employees at the Oskaloosa SHARE building, the rest of the employees are strictly volunteers.
Noreen Maxwell, a ten year employee of Sieda in Ottumwa, stopped in to pick something up but was quickly greeted by Northey. She spoke with him about possible ideas to make food packages more appealing.
Noreen Maxwell, from Sieda (Ottumwa), spoke with Northey of an idea to enhance the monthly packages.
“Many people receiving the packages don’t know what exactly everything in the box is,” said Maxwell. Her idea was to include a list or booklet of possible recipes – including instructions- for those receiving the package. Step by step instructions to handle and prepare the food the proper way.
The menus for the packages are altered each month depending on what is in season and practical. The menu items for September have been released online. Some of the options for packages include a Grocery Package, Meat Only Package, Variety Special “Nice Assortment”, Seafood and a Lunch Box Special. Prices for these assortments range from $14.50 to $36.00 per package. Ordering for the September packages begins on August 26th. The purchased packages will then be distributed on September 23rd.
Newman stated SHARE had a lot of returning customers. “Even if they have no need for the package, many customers buy packages to donate them to another family or individual that does.” Another example of neighbor helping neighbor that SHARE strives for.
Senator Ken Rozenboom and State Representative Guy Vander Linden will visit SHARE tomorrow morning (Thursday) to understand how it impacts House District 79 and State District 40.
If you would like to purchase a package online for September or learn more about SHARE, visit www.shareiowa.com.