Food for families

SHARE Iowa is flourishing at its new location at First Presbyterian Church.

SHARE – Self Help And Resource Exchange – is a food buying program. It was hosted at the New Covenant Church for 11 years. When that church held its last distribution in May 2012, Suzanne Schwendemann read about it in The Messenger.

“I had never heard of SHARE before,” Schwendemann said. “When I read that, I felt called.”

Schwendemann got in touch with New Covenant Church, called SHARE’s headquarters in Oskaloosa, and brought the idea to First Presbyterian. It didn’t take long to get the program going.

“Their last delivery month was May, and our first was September,” she said. “New Covenant had 17 packages in May. This is our biggest month with 130 packages. We’re growing, and it’s fun.”

Schwendemann is now the host site coordinator for this SHARE location.

Customers purchase different food packages in advance. Then one Saturday a month, volunteers from all over the community get themselves to the church at 7:30 a.m. to unload a truck full of food. They have only an hour to sort all the food into packages before customers begin arriving.

SHARE offers discounted food to anyone at all, and claims its prices can be 50 percent lower than buying at a grocery store.

Schwendemann is also the director of the Lord’s Cupboard food pantry, but she said the two organizations are not related in any way. In fact, SHARE is nothing like a food pantry.

“This is not low income, there are no qualifications,” she said. “Anyone can do it – professionals, busy families.

“The only eligibility requirement is they ask you to share two hours of your time volunteering,” she said. “We like to draw attention to how easy that is. If you’re on a board at church or at school, or if you do a carpool, you’re already doing it.”

Dawn Farr, Registration Team Leader, explained how they provide cheaper food.

“I describe it as a food co-op. They describe it as a food-buying group,” said Farr, who is in charge of taking orders. “Because they buy in such large quantities, they’re able to pass the savings on to the public.”

Schwendemann said the food is often labeled for another business, such as Fareway sugar or Hy-Vee flour, since SHARE shops wherever is the cheapest. They occasionally get steaks from Outback Steakhouse or soup from Subway.

Schwendemann said she likes to buy the food herself because of the variety.

“One thing I like to treat my family to, something you can’t get in a grocery store here, is restaurant-quality seafood,” she said.

Farr said the program has helped her find more time to relax.

“For me personally, it’s the value for my money, but it’s also the time factor,” Farr said. “In my world, being able to eliminate three to four trips to the grocery store a month that I’ve been able to do through SHARE, that saves me tons of valuable time.”

Sharon Hill tried the program for the first time this month and said it would greatly help her out.

“I think it’s one of the best kept secrets in Fort Dodge, because you don’t have to be poor to take advantage of this,” Hill said. “This will last me a month.”

She was able to afford meat for the first time in quite a while, she said, thanks to this program.

“Look at all these volunteers,” she said. “This is what’s good about this town.”