By Anne Marie Amacher
Each month a semi-tractor trailer pulls into sites throughout Iowa, Illinois, eastern Nebraska, northern Missouri and South Dakota with bundles of fresh and frozen food. Volunteers unload the trucks, unpack the boxes and distribute the food to people who pre-ordered from a list of package options.
This nonprofit, food-buying organization is called SHARE, and it offers nutritious food at a reduced cost. No income guidelines or membership fees are required. Participants are asked to donate two hours of volunteer service per month wherever they choose, said Fran Kenyon, SHARE’s office manager.
Formed in 1992, the Oskaloosa-based organization has offered a variety of food options for those wanting to save money on groceries. SHARE tries to order as much food from local and statewide vendors as possible. A newer feature is online ordering and payment through PayPal. Since this feature became available last year and really took off this past spring, orders have been increasing. “It’s convenient,” Kenyon said.
Items in each month’s packages vary. But a “best value” package is always offered, which includes assorted fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and other food items. A meat-only package also is a regular offering. Other packages provide a combination of options.
Orders are taken for two weeks, beginning on distribution day, Kenyon said. The new package choices go online the day before distribution day and are printed in the newsletter available at the sites on distribution day. E-mails also are sent out to those on that list.
Orders are taken at the distribution sites and online and must be paid for at the time of the order. Orders for November have already been closed.
“After we close out the orders we order all our food,” Kenyon said. Fruits and vegetables vary according to what is in season. “We order as much local as we can.” And it’s not just the produce. Meats and noodles from plants in Iowa or the region are preferred to enhance the “buy local” efforts.
During the winter, SHARE works with a program in California to obtain fruits for the Iowa program.
A week before distribution volunteers come to the warehouse in Oskaloosa to start assembling packages. Semis are loaded and head out on 12 routes throughout the Midwest making several stops to drop off food. SHARE also rents two, 24-foot trucks to distribute packages at sites within a two-hour radius of Oskaloosa.
People who placed orders pick up their food from an area site, which is often a church or school building. “All we require is that there is enough space, tables and volunteers,” Kenyon said.
Davenport’s Central City SHARE is a family affair. The Brown family, with the assistance of a few others, has been working at the site, which is located at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. The Browns include siblings Pat, Mike, Chris Brown and Kathy Dankert and her husband Ronnie Dankert. They are also assisted by Larry Shriver and George Rashid.
Pat Brown said she wishes more people would consider using SHARE. “It’s a variety of food that’s at a savings.” Because of decreased use in parts of Davenport, the Central City site now serves a larger portion of the city. “It’s too bad. There are so many good deals.”
The busiest time of the year is October, November and December. Special Thanksgiving and Christmas packages with enough food to feed six people are available.
“Anyone who wants to save money on their groceries should consider ordering from SHARE,” Kenyon says.
SHARE distribution dates
Distribution dates remaining in 2010: Nov. 20 and Dec. 18. Distribution sites can be found online. For more information visit the SHARE website at www.shareiowa.org, call 800-344-11087 or (641) 673-4000.
If your area is not served by SHARE, but is interested, contact Kenyon or director Becky Newman at the same numbers.