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Fresh Produce Program

July 3, 2013

Iowa – Tuesday, June 25

The first thing I wanted to do today was take care of my donation, and for that I had to drive west to Des Moines. I was going to make a donation to the Food Bank of Iowa, and when I was reading about them this morning, I saw one of the programs they’re affiliated with is called HUSH, for Help Us Stop Hunger. I read that it’s a program where hunters can hunt for extra deer, which is then processed, and the meat is given away through the various food pantries, so not only does it help control an overly large deer population, it helps feed hungry people. So I called them to ask a few questions about that program, and also about their “Putting the Brakes on Hunger” program. In the end, I made a donation to their Fresh Produce Program instead! It took me a little while to get to the food bank, and when I arrived I met Carey, Lindsay and Stacey. Carey answered my questions about the HUSH program, which is administered by a different agency (a DNR sort of program; whichever one issues the deer permits). The Food Bank of Iowa manages the distribution of the venison through their many food pantries, but since they don’t actually manage the program, it would have been complicated for them to take a donation for it. But she told me this has been going on for a number of years – hunters can buy an extra deer permit so that they are all taken legally, and then the hunters take those deer to a participating processing place, which processes all the venison into hamburger and it’s packaged in 2# bags and frozen. At first people weren’t quite sure if they wanted ground venison in their freezer – but the food pantries started providing recipes and other suggestions, and now the venison flies out of the freezers when it arrives. Even though I couldn’t make a donation to that program, I still think it’s a really good idea. I don’t know if my home state of Michigan has any programs like that – I’ve never heard of any and Michigan has a high rate of car/deer accidents due to overpopulation. I’ve often thought about this as far as goose hunting too – there’s too many geese and a lot of hunger, but the goose meat might be a tougher sell than the venison! It’s food for thought though!

Carey then showed me around the whole facility while telling me about the different programs. This food bank partners with a couple hundred food pantries in many counties to help provide food to those who need it. Last year they passed out 9 million pounds of food! Even though they get a lot of corporate food donations, they welcome smaller donations as well – every little bit helps. She told me about another type of program which I hadn’t run across yet, and that was the Fresh Produce Program, and I thought it was an awesome idea. There’s a big correctional facility in town, and last year they partnered with the food bank to start providing fresh produce from a garden at the correctional facility. They have a 12 acre garden there, which is huge, and the pre-release inmates have to fill out a job application if they want to work on this project, and they have to show up for scheduled hours of work, and not only is it helping the inmates with job skills and responsibility, but their hard work results in a lot of fresh vegetables for hungry people. Last year they successfully planted and harvested cabbage, onions, and squash among other things, but didn’t have luck with the carrots! The food bank provides the equipment, and seeds, and fuel for distribution efforts, and I really liked this program, and that’s where my donation went today. Again, it’s a program that helps everyone involved on both ends, and there should be more of those! Once Carey had shown me around, the others met us in a conference room and we chatted a bit – they had questions about my journey and I had a few more questions about what they do. I was there for quite a while and it was really interesting.

And then I had to hit the road. Since the northwestern side of Iowa shares a border with South Dakota, and my dad lives fairly close to the border, I was going to be staying there tonight, and having dinner with Dad, Joan, and cousins Jay and Sandra. I was a little farther away than I thought, so I got on the freeway, and drove to the town of Elk Horn, where Tula and I got out for some walking. Elk Horn was settled by Danish people, and it’s still considered to be the largest rural Danish settlement in the country. The most well known feature of the town is a big windmill that they shipped over from Denmark. There’s a surprising amount of billboard advertising about the town and windmill, and the town didn’t seem all that big, considering all the hoop-la! I did 3 1/2 miles of walking there, and decided to use the extra 3 miles I had walked in the last couple of days, bringing me up to 6 1/2 for today. I didn’t have time to walk the other mile and a half, and will do that tomorrow because I won’t have nearly so much driving time.

From Elk Horn I mostly stayed on the freeways to Beresford, South Dakota, where it was fun catching up with family and we all enjoyed a summery meal of fried chicken, potato salad and fruit salad.

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