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Feed Greater Des Moines Conference to be held March 4


Attending this conference has given me hope that a hunger-free Polk County, and world, is achievable,” shared Rick Kozin, Director of Public Health at Polk County Health Department. As a presenting sponsor of the 8th Annual Feed Greater Des Moines Conference, Rick has also championed hunger research in partnership with many local organizations, including one of the keynotes speakers, Dr. Simon Geletta from Des Moines University. The conference is on Saturday, March 4, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Back in 2009, Diana Sickles, a retired pastor and advocate for feeding hungry children, co-founded what was then referred to as the Hope for the Hungry Conference: Feeding Greater Des Moines. For the past seven years, Diana tirelessly volunteered to manage this conference, with a unique outlook. The belief was that bringing together two communities, local food and fighting hunger, would create more innovation and collaboration to both feed hungry people and empower people to grow food locally for themselves and hungry people. It has been working.

Over a hundred people have packed various locations these past seven years to learn from organizations like United Way of Central Iowa, Lutheran Services of Iowa, Food Bank of Iowa, Des Moines Area Religious Council, the Faith & Grace Garden and Practical Farmers of Iowa. The diversity of achievements and new ideas has helped local organizations spawn more school gardens, church gardens, community gardens, urban farms, and urban farmers, while also improving programs like Backpack Buddies for children, local food rescue and the nutritional value of food being offered by all programs. This is the result of tireless work by our resident leaders and their passion to make a difference. The conference is merely a platform for them to share, innovate and collaborate.

Last year, Diana retired from the conference and took a position helping Kiwanis focus on feeding hungry children. In her absence, Aubrey Alvarez, Executive Director of Eat Greater Des Moines, agreed to take ownership of the event. “We are excited to continue this incredible forum for community innovation and collaboration,” she shared.

To clearly communicate both the local food and the hunger fighting tracks of the conference, this year it was rebranded, “Feed Greater Des Moines.” The goal of the event is to engage a new wave of citizen volunteers on key initiatives each year and get them involved immediately in work taking place in the community.

Prep Iowa

Keynote speakers include Dr. Simon Geletta from DMU presenting on “Hunger in Central Iowa” followed by Jason Grimm from Iowa Valley RC&D presenting on “Urban Food Systems Design.” After a free lunch provided by The Legion of Food, attendees get to choose two workshops to attend in each track, hunger and local food. Workshops are co-led by two different local organizations. Hunger workshops include: feeding children, feeding the elderly, feeding the homeless, rescuing food, and tackling poverty. Local food workshops include: school gardens, community kitchens, urban gardens, beginning farmers, and job-skill training.

Presenters include a star-studded cast from these local groups: Aging Resources of Central Iowa, Wesley Life, Food Bank of Iowa, Visiting Nurses Services of Iowa, Des Moines Public Schools, Central Iowa Shelter & Services, Joppa Outreach, Eat Greater Des Moines, DMARC, IMPACT Community Action Partnership, Faith & Grace Garden, Forest Avenue Outreach, FoodCorps-Iowa, ISU Extension, Wallace Centers of Iowa, Dogpatch Urban Gardens, Grade A Gardens, and LSI Global Greens.

This year, the conference was supported by presenting sponsors, Eat Greater Des Moines and Polk County Health Department. Additional sponsorships include Legion of Food, Gusto Pizza Company, Tacopocalypse, Barilla America, Kemin Industries, 818 Design, United Way of Central Iowa, Community Choice Credit Union, Aging Resources of Central Iowa, Presbytery of Des Moines, Drake University, Fork in the Road, Wesley Life, AARP, Downtown Kiwanis Club, Midwest Dairy Council, and Dick & Bonnie Ekse.

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