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DSM Fellows Capstone Panel: Food Insecurity

Corporate Giving Garden

During a recent DSM Fellowship Program Capstone presentation, guest panelists discussed food insecurity here in Central Iowa and initiatives being undertaken to serve those experiencing food insecurity. Panelists included:

  • Bergetta Beardsley, Vice President of Philanthropy at Food Bank of Iowa
  • Joelle Knowler, Human Resources Specialist at Farm Bureau Financial Services

What is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity is a lack of consistent access to enough food for a healthy life. In Iowa, one in 11 adults and one in eight children face food insecurity. Iowa ranks last for regular fruit and vegetable consumption.

Corporate Giving Garden Initiative

Knowler discussed the Corporate Giving Garden on the Farm Bureau grounds, 1,600 square feet of manicured lawn that raises 2,000 pounds of produce each year. The Giving Garden allows Farm Bureau employees to give back to the Greater Des Moines (DSM) community through on-site volunteer hours by participating in tasks like planting, raking, pulling weeds and delivering fresh food to the Food Bank of Iowa, a wholesaler for donated and purchased food which is distributed to pantries within 55 counties across the state of Iowa.

Understanding Food Insecurity in Iowa

A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increased awareness of food insecurity in the state. The face of hunger can be anyone you encounter. Beardsely said that food insecurity can also come and go-one month a person might be OK, but another month might be difficult. A food bank can provide assistance through its partners to alleviate and bring assistance to individuals through food donations and contributions. Connecting pantry partners with the donations received is invaluable to those served at the Food Bank of Iowa.

One of Farm Bureau’s pillars of success is social responsibility, or regularly asking “how can we give back to the community”? Knowler said through setting up concrete goals and creating a company with a strong moral compass makes it easy to give back. When recruiting new hires, Knowler said it is imperative they know there are engaging volunteer opportunities, such as the Giving Garden.

How DSM Companies Can Help with Food Insecurity

In DSM, local businesses can start their own giving gardens. Knowler often speaks to organizations in the region about setting up their own gardens. She also mentioned a volunteer program making breakfast casseroles for Salvation Army, and packaging meals for Meals for the Heartland. Beardsley said volunteering at the Food Bank is the perfect opportunity for corporate teams, book clubs or individuals to sign up for a shift. Other volunteer opportunities within Food Bank of Iowa include driving forklifts, pulling orders, data entry, mailings and more, as they seek to include volunteers in every aspect of the organization.

Watch the entire webinar below:


Looking for opportunities as a young professional in Greater Des Moines (DSM)? The DSM Fellowship program is the preeminent professional development initiative attracting, developing and retaining a diverse community of top-tier graduates to the region. You can also connect with other young professionals and emerging leaders through Young Professionals Connection (YPC) events and committees.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.