Des Moines Food Program Filled Holes Left by Pandemic and Derecho

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines nonprofit Urban Dreams is used to filling the void in underserved communities. “That’s what we’ve been doing since 1985 is providing that service,” said Rachel Manna, who works at Urban Dreams. This summer they have also filled the community’s stomachs. It’s been amazing that Urban Dreams has been able to provide food for the community,” said Anthony Belloio of Des Moines.

Twice a week since May, in the middle of the pandemic and derecho damage, they’ve been serving up warm meals at Evelyn K. Davis Park to whoever needs it, no questions asked. “I’ve been there. I’ve been homeless and I’ve been without food and on low income,” Manna said.

The generosity has made Belloio a regular. Between paying his own tuition at Des Moines University for a Master’s degree, working full time and an infant child, he’s welcomed an extra hand. “I take care of my mom that has cancer. My grandma is old and in hospice. I’m helping out my sisters through college and so being the only person working and having a recent child, it has been very hard,” said Belloio.

Belloio isn’t alone. Urban Dreams’ records from the free meals event show over 3,000 meals a month in June, July and August and over 12,000 since May. “These are the heroes over here,” said Belloio as he pointed towards the staff members handing out meals.

The event is put on by a unique partnership. The Food Bank of Iowa provides the food. Orchestrate Hospitality prepares it and Urban Dreams hands it out. The meals were supposed to go from May to July but because of the need it has been extended twice. Manna said, “They love the consistency. They love that even when everything else shut down, we were out here.”

The meals themselves have been memorable. “Turkey pot pie is a big favorite and chicken pot pie. We’ve had barbecue chicken. We’ve had pasta marinara and orange chicken,” said Manna.

While Monday was the event’s finale, they’ve also provided families a chance to make real memories at the dinner table. “Help your family out. Every little bit that we give to the community helps them out and that is great,” Belloio said.

The Urban Dreams headquarters on 6th Avenue and Forest Avenue will continue to offer non-perishable food for free Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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