By Terri Mork Speirs
Imagine a freshly frosted layer cake donated from a bakery.
Now, imagine a home-bound man with a birthday.
What could possibly go right?
One of my mentors would say, “Give until it feels good.” A more positive take on the old saying, give until it hurts. Delivering food makes me feel good – and it’s ridiculously simple. All it takes is a vehicle, a tank of gas, a GPS system, and two to three hours.
IMPACT volunteers currently make 1,000 food deliveries annually, and we are working to increase that number to help meet the need. I serve as one of the backup drivers when there’s a snafu in the schedule. I don’t deliver often but when I do it’s memorable.
Come with me for one delivery shift. This one involves a birthday cake.
The first stop is at the IMPACT Ankeny location to load the food and receive the route information. After backing up my Mazda to the loading dock, I open the hatch and ring the bell. The garage door rolls up, and therein lies about 15 brown bags of groceries and five silver insulated bags with refrigerated items. A three-day supply of food for five families. Canned vegetables, beans, cereal, peanut butter, bread, eggs, and frozen meat. Staff and volunteers have everything pre-packed and color-coded, so the correct bags go to each family.
On this day, there’s also something special.
“One customer mentioned it’s his birthday and we happen to have a cake, so I added it to the order,” said Tanner Haskin, IMPACT’s Health Coordinator. Tanner coordinates the food and personal hygiene pantries for three IMPACT locations. Tanner helps load my SUV. The cake is placed safely in the front seat.
Off I go.
Some IMPACT delivery volunteers do their shifts in pairs with one navigator and one driver. I like to drive alone because for me it’s a time of meditation. A few hours when I am solely focused on one thing and my daily worries disappear. Today, I’m thinking about the birthday cake. I decide to sing to the recipient if possible.
Delivery #1 – Household of three. Four bags with green tape. Destination townhouse. A young girl in flip-flops bounds out her front door. She tells me about her summer plans as we carry the food to their stoop.
Delivery #2 – Household of one. Two bags with purple tape. Destination senior living center. A man in a motorized wheelchair wearing a hat with military insignia awaits outside as knows his food is coming.
Delivery #3 - Household of four - Five bags with orange tape. Destination two story house. I leave the order at the front door next to tricycles and toys. I do not see anyone and send the automated text.
Delivery #4, the birthday delivery – Household of one. Destination apartment complex. Two bags with yellow tape plus a surprise cake. I feel like I am five years old again. The customer, a 30-something man, meets me at the front door of his apartment complex. Excellent! My birthday song is on! I hand him the cake with far too much exuberance, a silly grin, and a song. He is mostly unimpressed but he did text me a thank you for the food.
Delivery #5 - Household of two. Three bags with green tape. Destination motel. A woman in a wheelchair is waiting at the front lobby and guides me to the parking space adjacent to the room.
Forty-five miles later and my shift is complete. The satisfaction is simple but wonderful.
For IMPACT, food delivery is complex. It takes planning, marketing, customer service, filling orders, grocery bags, color coding of grocery bags, map-making, volunteers, volunteer coordination, funds, and, well, food. Lots and lots of food. And here’s where I give it up to the IMPACT volunteers, supporters, and staff who make food delivery possible. Thank you. I hope you all know you are a lifeline.
I did not solve food insecurity during my one delivery shift. However I did bring groceries to five households who had asked for help, and a cake to one man who said it’s his birthday.
It feels good.
photo top: Jonah Werth recently joined IMPACT’s volunteer food delivery team and filled one of the first shifts for 2023. Note the blue color coding on the grocery bag in the trunk, as mentioned in the post. Color-coded bags help volunteers to ensure families get the correct food order. Photo: Kim Coulter
photo bottom: Tanner Haskin (left) with two of IMPACT’s newest delivery volunteers, Dennis & Janyne Lowenberg. Photo: Kim Coulter
Seven ways you can help.
Host a pantry drive. (food and personal hygiene items greatly needed!)
Share this post with a friend (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn).
About IMPACT’s food program.
IMPACT’s food program is largely community-funded and volunteer-operated.
IMPACT served more than 10,000 individuals with food assistance in 2023.
IMPACT has a five county service area: Boone, Jasper, Marion, Polk, and Warren. Of the five counties, two rely on IMPACT for food assistance.
To respond to this need, IMPACT operates three pantries – in Boone, Ankeny, and Des Moines.
IMPACT’s Ankeny and Drake pantries are affiliates with the DMARC Food Pantry Network.
Most families visit one of the pantries in person to select their food, or to pick up their food ordered through IMPACT’s online system.
Food delivery is currently available in Polk County, however the need is greater.
Terri Mork Speirs is IMPACT’s Chief Development Officer. She can be reached by phone at 515-348-4247 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.