An initiative begun at Des Moines Public in 2015 to reduce food waste was recognized by Auditor of State Rob Sand as an example of local government innovation and efficiency. In his office at the Iowa State Capitol, Sand presented Dr. Ian Roberts, superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, with one of this year’s Public Innovations and Efficiences (PIE) awards.
“Food rescue is exactly the kind of innovation we had in mind when we first created the PIE program four years ago,” said Sand in advance of the event. “Where compassion and innovation meet lies efficiency, and I’m proud that we get to present our first 2023 award to the folks at Des Moines Independent Community School District—they’ve gone above and beyond to reduce waste and improve support for the most vulnerable members of the communities they serve.”
The Auditor’s recognition was for No Thank You boxes set up at cafeterias across the Des Moines school district. Students may place foods such as fruit or unopened items in the box and, after being inspected, is then redirected. The food may be sent home with students in need, for example, or provided to nurses for students who may need to take food with medication during the school day.
“On the streets of Des Moines, you may see one of our food delivery trucks with a big sign that reads ‘Feeding Kids. Nourishing Minds,'” noted Dr. Roberts. “That is what we do each and every day at Des Moines Public Schools. We educate more than 30,000 children here in our state’s capitol city. And we provide tens of thousands of breakfasts and lunches to make sure no student goes hungry while in our care. But students – like adults – don’t always eat everything that is on their plate. Rather than letting that food go to waste, our food and nutrition team is doing great work in redirecting it to better meet the needs of our students and families.”
Amanda Miller, the director of food and nutrition for DMPS, also noted that the No Thank You boxes help in menu and meal planning by identifying foods that students might take but then not eat.
“While food rescue is just one of the items on our checklist of PIE recipes, it’s one worth sharing far and wide,” added Sand, noting that during a time of higher costs for families, many struggle to make ends meet—even grappling with food insecurity. Sand continued, “PIE provides local leaders with an easy, streamlined sharing process—that’s why each year, we’ve seen more engagement than the last.”
Sand created the PIE program in 2019 to encourage public entities across Iowa to think outside the box and spark innovative ideas to save public funds. The PIE program checklist provides local leaders with tools to collaborate and share their concepts, known as PIE recipes, via the Auditor of State’s website.