Oct 20, 2022 - News

Des Moines food pantry contracts terminated over distribution dispute

Illustration of an open fridge with light coming out

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Agreements between the Food Bank of Iowa and 11 Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) food pantries have been terminated, officials from both groups told Axios Wednesday.

  • Disagreement about a new distribution requirement is the source of the break between the groups.

Why it matters: The dispute could greatly diminish the amount of food given out to thousands of people in the metro.

How it works: The food bank is like a nonprofit wholesale distributor that has partnered with hundreds of charities across 55 of Iowa's 99 counties.

  • It collects and provides food for free or at a discount to the charities.

Driving the news: The food bank is standardizing operating agreements to ensure that each pantry that it works with offers recipients at least three days supply of food a month.

  • Groups were notified of the change on Sept. 2 and had until Oct. 1 to sign a contract addendum.
  • DMARC is the only organization in the network with agreements that have been terminated.

State of play: DMARC already offers a three-day supply of food staples.

  • Recipients are also allowed additional daily visits to collect donated, perishable foods like fruits and vegetables.

Yes, but: Under the new rules, recipients would be eligible for a visit each month at each of DMARC’s pantries.

  • That’s up to 45 days worth of supplies monthly instead of just three, which isn’t sustainable and could lead to abuse or waste, DMARC CEO Matt Unger told Axios.

By the numbers: More than 20,000 people used DMARC's pantry network in August, which was up 86% from the prior year.

  • Near-record usage continues and the approaching holiday season typically generates greater need, Unger said.

Of note: Most of DMARC's food pantries independently made the decision on whether to sign the Food Bank's addendum.

  • Three of the sites will continue to work with the Food Bank — Urbandale Food Pantry as well as the Bidwell-Riverside Center and Catholic Charities Outreach centers in DSM
  • The DMARC-ket Southside Food Pantry, the 15th site, opened last month and does not have an agreement with the food bank.

What next: Most DMARC pantries will be unable to order items from the Food Bank after Oct. 31.

  • The organization will try to boost fundraising to offset its losses, Unger said.

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