When people think of Iowa, they often envision lush farmland and plentiful fresh fruits and vegetables, said Sarai Rice, executive director of the Des Moines Area Religious Council. The reality, she added, is farming in Iowa mostly consists of producing corn and soy beans that don’t necessarily end up on local residents’ tables.
“We have a surprising number of people in Greater Des Moines who really haven’t had a lot of exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables,” Rice said. “And because a significant chunk of Des Moines is a food desert, where it’s difficult to buy affordable fresh food, they don’t have access even through grocery stores.”
That’s why the Des Moines Area Religious Council, or DMARC, which provides food to about 17,000 people every month through the food pantry network it manages, is grateful for giving gardens like the one run by area Wells Fargo team members.
Wells Fargo’s giving garden is corporate sponsored, along with the United Way of Central Iowa, and all produce is grown by team members and donated to DMARC’s local network of food pantries. Team member volunteers come before and after work, during their lunch break, in their spare time, or during their paid community service time to weed, water, and harvest the garden.
The giving garden started in 2015. That year, the garden produced about 450 pounds of produce for donation. In 2016, team members donated 1,600 pounds of produce, and last year, that number rose to more than 2,000 pounds. The gardeners have also changed what they grow to accommodate what DMARC either doesn’t get much of, like fruits, or has a need for, like produce with a longer shelf life.
“In a farming community, you would not expect that people don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so we want to make sure that we combat that type of hunger within our local community,” said Brooklyn Davis, an executive resolution specialist for Wells Fargo who leads the giving garden project. “By using this community garden to donate to our local food pantries, we are able to support people who are considered food scarce in central Iowa.”