Nov 10, 2021 - News
Des Moines food pantry operator expanding to meet demand
DMARC CEO Matt Under demonstrates with his hands at the new pantry site.
DMARC CEO Matt Unger demonstrates how many fridges can fit in the new DMARC pantry site. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

The Des Moines Area Religious Council is raising money to relocate its headquarters, a move organizers say will triple its size and help more Iowans experiencing food insecurity.

Why it matters: DMARC's food pantries saw a spike in need at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that demand continues today.

  • But the organization, which is currently at capacity, has had to turn away donations because of lack of space.

For example: The other day, DMARC was set to receive a truck full of strawberries — an expensive donation valued at $50,000, DMARC CEO Matthew Unger said.

  • The organization didn't have enough storage space to accept it.
  • Capital City Fruit stepped in and helped keep it overnight, but there are times the group would have to say no to the donation, Unger explained.

By the numbers: In 2020, DMARC saw a record-number of people come in for food assistance, helping a total of 58,707 individuals.

  • Between FY 2008 and FY 2020, the number of individuals who came in for help increased by 105% — 104,280 visits to 214,055 visits.

What they're saying: The organization is looking to move its headquarters from downtown Des Moines to the city's Southside.

  • The new space, at 100 Army Post Road, offers more storage space for food, particularly perishables that require refrigeration, Unger said.
  • It's especially important now as DMARC tries to purchase more wholesale items at deeper discounts.

Between the lines: The organization is worried about the end of the federal emergency declaration that allowed food stamp recipients to spend 25% more on food.

Other unique amenities: The additional space will also serve as a permanent food pantry, offering another location people can go in the Southside.

  • They also want to regularly offer a farmers market-style pantry outside, which gives people more fresh food options.

What's ahead: DMARC hopes to move into the new location by next spring.

  • It's trying to raise $5.6 million to support the new space. While the group hopes to sell its downtown location at 1435 Mulberry Street for around $3 million, they're fundraising for the remainder.
A rendering of office spaces at the new DMARC headquarters.
A rendering of office spaces at the new DMARC headquarters. Photo courtesy of DMARC
A rendering of the offices inside the new DMARC headquarters.
A rendering of the new DMARC headquarters. Photo courtesy of DMARC
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