DES MOINES, Iowa- Pantries across the Metro will see a reduced amount of produce following the end of the Downtown Farmers’ Market.

From May to October, hundreds of vendors sell locally sourced foods to packed crowds in the Historic Court District in Downtown Des Moines. Left over produce and nonperishable foods then get collected by volunteers for DMARC’s Meals from the Market.

Since 2011, Meals from the Market has contributed more than 376,000 pounds of food. Just this year alone, the program collected 31,010 pounds of food.

This produce is then donated to 14 local food pantries within DMARC’s Food Pantry Network.

Blake Willadsen, the Marketing and Communications Manager for DMARC said that produce is the most expensive food to purchase for pantries. Therefore, the donations provided by Meals from the Market allows DMARC to purchase other items to stock pantries.

Willadsen said, “It helps make sure that there’s more options available to folks at the food pantry. You know you’re going to have at least something green and something red you can grab off the shelf there. Produce items helps so that folks can eat the rainbow and always have healthy options if they like.”

Now that the market is in its off season, it’s likely that pantries won’t see as much variety during the winter months.

Patty Sneddon-Kisting is the Executive Director of the Urbandale Food Pantry. She said that this year has been a “record breaking” year for her pantry.

Urbandale Food Pantry served over 1800 families this October, which Sneddon-Kisting says is a 40% increase compared to October 2022.

“I think it’s just a stark reminder that there’s so many people in our community that are struggling to put food on the table. Whether it be because of inflation, because the price of food at the grocery store, because of living wages, because of a variety of factors that really impact the families that we serve,” she said.

This isn’t unique to the Urbandale Food Pantry. Willadsen said that throughout 2023, they have seen record breaking or close to record breaking numbers of people utilizing their 14 pantries in the Metro. According to him, this is unprecedented.

Last Thursday November 2nd, was the second busiest day in the history of the DMARC Food Pantry Network, serving over 1800 people in the single-day.

“Donated produce from the market helped offer a wider selection of healthy items at a time when more people are utilizing the pantries than ever before,” said Willadsen.

According to DMARC, around 20% of the food provided to pantries comes from rescue efforts like Meals from the Market.

Therefore, the winter months may continue to see more people in need and a less variety of food to choose from.

DMARC said that the best way for people in the community to contribute is through volunteering with them and at their local food pantries.