Nick Kuhn (left) with apprentices of the Justice League of Food’s Culinary Job Training Program. The apprentices gain valuable on-the-job training while helping those in need. Photo: Justice League of Food.
Writer: Allaire Nuss
As food insecurity has grown with the pandemic, Des Moines restaurants have stepped up to help.
“We want to share with people that are less fortunate and could be using our help,” says Jeff Bruning, co-owner of Full Court Press. Lucky Horse Beer and Burgers, its newest concept, donates food to Grace United Methodist Church patrons via more than 300 cards that can be redeemed for a free meal at the restaurant.
Full Court Press’ 15 other restaurants across Greater Des Moines have donated hot meals to the Grace Free Medical Clinic, providing food to patients every Tuesday night.
Nick and Lynn Kuhn are also focusing on addressing the issue. Over the years, Nick has helped coordinate food vendors to help food-insecure individuals. The Kuhns opened the Kitchen, a commercial kitchen space, in 2019 to help fund the Justice League of Food, a nonprofit organization for which Nick serves as chairman. The Kitchen is housed in the same building as the Hall DSM, the Kuhns’ West Des Moines beer hall and casual restaurant.
Revenue generated through the Kitchen helps support the Justice League’s Culinary Job Training Program. The two-year apprenticeship teaches at-risk high school and college-aged youths culinary training and life skills to help them land steady jobs and break the cycle of poverty.
“Feeding the homeless is important, and we’ll always do that,” Lynn says. “But in order to break the cycle, we feel like they need jobs. They need the skills.”
Apprentices and volunteers help prepare and deliver meals to those in need. The demand for meals increased after the pandemic, with monthly meals jumping from 1,700 to 2,300 in the four weeks after the lockdown began in March, Nick says.
“The pandemic was an exercise in using our food business to come up with as many ways to help as we possibly could,” he says.
In addition, the Kuhns established a pop-up pantry to address growing food insecurity, ordering food and household supplies from their distributors to sell at cost to at-risk communities. They also coordinated with various Des Moines restaurants to donate kitchen surpluses of food to their community meals program.
“I’m just proud to be a part of the food scene in this community,” Lynn says.
Iowa Stops Hunger is a yearlong Business Publications Corp. initiative to bring awareness and action to food insecurity in Iowa.