Writer: Hailey Allen
In the three years since dsm’s parent company, Business Publications Corp., launched the Iowa Stops Hunger initiative, we’ve featured dozens of statewide stories about people and organizations that are fighting to reduce food insecurity. Even so, with many still in need, it can feel overwhelming.
Liz Fleming, a Dubuque native who now lives in Des Moines, understood many of the challenges of food insecurity and wanted to help but wasn’t quite sure where to start. So she hopped onto social media.
“I had posted a bit on TikTok and Instagram about Iowa’s stunning food insecurity statistics — currently, 1 in 13 Iowans face food insecurity — and how I wanted to do something about it,” she said, citing a statistic from the nonprofit Feeding America.
That’s when Monika Owczarski of Sweet Tooth Farms and Sweet Tooth Community Fridge reached out. The two met for coffee, and Owczarski introduced Fleming to the network of community fridges around Des Moines.
“I personally loved the concept of the fridges,” Fleming said. “These are shame-free spaces where folks can access free, quality food right in their neighborhoods. There are 32 community fridges throughout Polk and Dallas County, and anyone can support the fridges by donating meals.”
With the reach and immediacy of a platform like Instagram, Fleming found she could raise awareness and coordinate efforts to combat hunger with resources that are already available, like the fridges. As chief operating officer and co-founder at Fresh Savant Social Marketing, she believes in the power of connections and page views.
The Instagram page she created, “Fill the Fridge Iowa,” took off quickly since it makes it easy for folks to pitch in. They use it to sign up for volunteer opportunities, find fridges to fill with food, and donate funds.
“People feel compelled to support their communities, but don’t necessarily know how,” she said. The Instagram page “encourages folks to support however they can.”
Fleming also created a handy map of fridges around Central Iowa to share on the page, and she frequently posts tips about how to help and where to donate.
“I’m pretty active on social media and was able to rack up a good following on my Instagram and TikTok,” she said. “I figured if I could build a platform, I should use it to shine a light on important issues, like food insecurity in our state. Many Iowans, and humans in general, spend a considerable amount of time on social media, so social-first marketing is very effective.”
Sharing her knowledge and passion with her network has created a ripple effect that expands with each post. She says her project is just a small part in a bigger effort to fight hunger.
“Folks like Monika at Sweet Tooth, Eat Greater Des Moines and the Supply Hive are truly doing the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting food insecurity in our community,” she said. “It’s a large and honorable task.”
Iowa Stops Hunger is an ongoing Business Publications Corp. initiative to raise awareness about food insecurity in Iowa and inspire action to combat it.