The World Food Prize Foundation

August 2015

Central Iowa hospitality industry partnership fights hunger, homelessness

The Iowa Hospitality Donation Network (IHDN) is a young initiative that shows great promise in bringing nonprofits, hotels and event venues together in win-win partnerships that support low income and homeless individuals in central Iowa.

By providing logistical assistance and a platform for sharing information, IHDN helps the hospitality industry donate excess food, leftover personal care items, and discarded housewares to nonprofit organizations and individuals in need. The promise of IDHN rests on its ability to facilitate win-win partnerships that go beyond traditional motivations of corporate responsibility while recognizing and addressing the barriers that hotels and nonprofits face in rescuing food and personal items.

For example, as hotels upgrade and renovate the disposal of mattresses is becoming progressively more expensive due to the fact that landfills are now setting prices based on weight. The Iowa Hospitality Donation Network exists to find solutions for logistics of moving these products from the hotels to charities that can distribute to those in need, such as shelters and organizations that help people transition to independent living. In addition to the environmental and social benefits of reduced waste, participating hotels benefit from decreased trash hauling expenses.

For more information about the Iowa Hospitality Donation Network, please contact Ms. Mandy McWherter at mandy@mycem.com or 515-254-0289. Hospitality partners interested in becoming involved may contact Rio Maxwell at events@mycem.com or call 515-254-0289 for additional information or to receive a listing of known charities that accept donations.

The Iowa Hospitality Donation Network was founded through the efforts of Michelle DeClerck, CMP, President of Conference Event Management. Ms. DeClerck shares her reflections below:

The Iowa Hospitality Donation Network: How the Hospitality Industry is working to End Hunger in Central Iowa

 I originally started conceptualizing the idea for Iowa Hospitality Donation Network (IHDN) as an outreach effort to further support more hunger and homelessness initiatives in our community through hotels, event centers, and venues.  As the co-chair for Matthew 25 at Faith Lutheran Church in Clive focusing efforts toward addressing hunger and homelessness, my goal has been to help our committee organize our efforts into a scalable and trackable manner in order to make a greater impact in our community and throughout the world, as it relates to these issues.  In addition, in my role as President on the board of directors for Opportunity on Deck, I also see the good that comes out of volunteering with needy families every week and how providing nutritious snacks and meals is so rewarding and helpful to their budgets. 

In my profession of traveling to and working with hotels all over the world, I see all the waste that goes on at hotels both from the guest sleeping room, to the kitchen where plates of uneaten food are tossed with shocking regularity. Growing up during a time when food issues and paying the bills were a challenge for my family, I was bothered by the fact that we did not have a local, collective effort to address the growing need among those who could use these products that would otherwise be thrown out. I knew there had to be a way to repurpose, recycle, or reuse these products and where better to start the effort than in Iowa where we rank seventh in the nation for volunteerism.  Iowans love to rally behind a great cause and they don’t like to waste when they can help others. 

I originally sat down with Cheryl Math with Heart of America Restaurants & Inns and shared with her my thoughts on starting a community-wide effort to collect unused food at hotels, and other items as well.  We determined that the area hotels don’t have as much wasted food as they do other items and refocused on thoughts on other available products. 

With the support of Abid Talic representing Paramount Hotel Group and many other influential hoteliers, including the Iowa Lodging Association, we came up with a plan to repurpose shampoo, conditioner, lotions, tissues, toilet paper, bedding, mattresses and other items currently going to the landfill – all at no cost to those participating hotels. This win-win proposal allows hotels, and venues as well, to get involved in a great cause, to support their community and to even reduce their landfill haul bills. After meeting as a group we were then able to design a turn-key operation to roll out to the hotels that would provide a simplified structure on how to collect the items, along with the bags to collect donations, a set schedule, and pick-up teams to deliver the items to the worthy charities.  

During this new process, we will continue to look for ways to repurpose the food items and are equally excited about working with Eat Greater Des Moines to test out their new app [the app is currently in testing and the release date is not yet set] that will further enhance the ability for us to get food from hospitality partners (hotels and venues) to worthy charities immediately. Currently, hospitality partners must follow strict guidelines on timing that often results in having to toss the food. With this new app, a charity can pick up the food immediately, avoiding the need to waste perfectly good food that hungry people would greatly appreciate. With the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, there is no reason to waste food when guidelines can be met.

Photo credits: (Top) Hospitality Donation Network Leaders: From left to right, Krysia Hannam – Heart of America Group, Cheryl Math – Heart of America Group, Michelle DeClerck – Conference Event Management, Mark Herron – Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel, Abid Talic – Fairfield Inn and Suites, Spring Hill Suites West Des Moines. (Bottom) Michelle DeClerck

© 2020 The World Food Prize Foundation. All Rights Reserved.