Spotlight on Aubrey Alvarez, Eat Greater Des Moines

May 24, 2019

Our local food coordinator spotlight this month is on Aubrey Alvarez, executive director of Eat Greater Des Moines.

What do you do as a local food coordinator?

Two people holding award.
Eat Greater Des Moines received the Live United 2019 Impact Maker award for companies with less than 300 people.  

In my role as executive director of Eat Greater Des Moines, acting as a local food coordinator is one element of the work. When focusing on this area of work, it falls into our “Fresh Food. Friendly Neighbors.” campaign. We work to make it easier for those interested in buying local, whether from a farmers market, farm stand or as a CSA member.

On our website, we make all this information easy to find and navigate through interactive maps. We also support those looking to purchase local at a larger level, like school districts. In that capacity, we work directly to help them connect with the best resource – either directly to a producer, or to a service like Farm Table Delivery or Iowa Choice Harvest.

How long have you been in the job, and what’s your background?

I started in April 2013, and the local food system was completely new to me. Even understanding what was meant when someone discussed the “food system” was new. My background is in health promotion and nonprofits. I like to say that I knew the value of eating quality, healthy food, but did not understand the how and why food got to various locations. I enjoyed shopping at my local farmers market, but again, didn’t pay attention to the vendors selling watermelon in May.

I didn’t understand the systemic factors driving what is available to purchase, even at farmers markets where the perception is that everything there has been grown or raised by the vendor selling. As such, I’ve spent my last six years learning and trying to do more to make it easier for those working throughout the local food system to be successful and sustainable.  

Two people wearing yellow hard hats at construction site.
Tom Jones, United Way Loaned Executive, and Aubrey spoke to a group of employees building the new Kum & Go corporate headquarters.

What are some of your favorite local foods-related projects, past or present?

Our local food box was a lot of fun – I miss it!

What new projects or directions are you looking forward to?

The opportunity to address the transportation gap facing local producers getting products to market with the need to transport perishable food donations (food rescue). Eat Greater Des Moines recently started coordinating pickup and delivery of donated food from a donor organization to recipient partners. We are contracting with organizations that already have vehicles and drivers.

As we have been building this project, I see the overlap of opportunity to do the same coordination of pick up and delivery for some of our partners like Farm Table Delivery. They have been an amazing asset to the food system, and I’d love to see how we can support their efforts while also addressing system gaps within the food recovery space.

What do you love most about your job?

Two people smiling.
Aubrey and her oldest (Lulu) on a girls’ lunch date.

The opportunity to meet and work with amazing individuals and groups every day is a tremendous perk. What I love most though is the ability to really impact change. After six years, it’s great to look back and see projects that have come together, or expanded or shifted because of our partnership and support. Our success comes from our partners being successful, and that always feels great. The saying “all boats rise with the tide” is how I view our work. When we work collaboratively, everybody wins.

What’s your favorite local food?

It’s almost asparagus season, so that’s at the top right now! Just cook or grill and season with a little salt. I have to get to it before my daughters eat it all!