For more than 25 years, Hy-Vee has partnered with the Des Moines Area Religious Council – an interfaith organization with a core membership of 140 organizations from four different faith traditions – to support DMARC’s Food Pantry Network. This is the largest food pantry network in Iowa, with 13 sites throughout the Des Moines metro area and its own centralized warehouse.
Since 1990, the 20 Hy-Vee stores in the Des Moines area have promoted DMARC’s Red Barrel and Sack Hunger programs to collect food donations from customers for DMARC’s Food Pantry Network. Each Hy-Vee store is home to one of DMARC’s iconic Red Barrels, where customers can deposit purchased items they wish to donate. The stores also sell $6 and $12 pre-assembled sacks of items from DMARC’s “most needed” list – staples such as canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, cereal, whole-grain pasta and personal care items – to make it easy for customers to contribute.
But in 2002, the local Hy-Vee stores decided they wanted to do more to support DMARC’s Food Pantry Network. They wanted to create a signature event that would not only raise money for the organization, but also raise awareness of the issues of hunger and food insecurity in the Des Moines community and the important role the Food Pantry plays in addressing those issues. Thus, the Colossal Cookie Sale was born.
The Colossal Cookie Sale takes place for two weeks each fall at all 20 Hy-Vee stores throughout the Des Moines area. Each store builds a gigantic display of Hy-Vee cookies made by the in-store bakery, with signage announcing that for each cookie sold, Hy-Vee will donate 1 cent to the DMARC Food Pantry Network. The lunchpail-sized cookies, offered in seven different varieties and attractively priced at 12 cents each, are heavily promoted in local ads and via social media and in-store events. Customers are also offered the option of pre-ordering buckets of 100 cookies, which sell for just $10.99.
With the money raised through the cookie sale, the local Hy-Vee stores are able to purchase food items at cost through Hy-Vee’s procurement system and have those items delivered via Hy-Vee trucks to the DMARC warehouse.
DMARC also promotes the event through its website, newsletters, news releases and social media channels.
The objectives of the Colossal Cookie Sale are:
1.) To raise funds to support the work of the Des Moines Area Religious Council’s Food Pantry Network, the largest food pantry network in Iowa, with 13 sites throughout the Des Moines metro area.
2.) To increase awareness of the issues of hunger and food insecurity in the Des Moines area, and the efforts of the DMARC Food Pantry Network to address these issues.
3.) To offer Hy-Vee customers an opportunity to purchase a quality Hy-Vee product at a great value while supporting an important local nonprofit organization.
4.) To fulfill Hy-Vee’s mission of making lives easier, healthier and happier.
Over the past 10 years, the Colossal Cookie Sale has succeeded in meeting its objectives. Since the program’s inception, Hy-Vee has sold more than 8.5 million cookies and has donated more than $85,000 worth of food items purchased at cost to DMARC’s Food Pantry Network. According to DMARC, this annual project has provided the food equivalent of nearly 115,000 emergency meals.
In 2013 alone, the 20 Hy-Vee stores involved in the project sold more than 552,000 cookies, resulting in a donation of $5,500 worth of cereal (more than 4,000 boxes) delivered to DMARC’s warehouse. The stores’ ability to leverage Hy-Vee’s buying power provides additional benefits to DMARC: according to Rebecca Whitlow, DMARC’s Food Pantry director, Hy-Vee’s cereal donation will save the organization $9,000 in costs and provide a breakfast option for 4,500 families for a month.
This year’s donation had the distinction of being the very first delivery made to DMARC’s new distribution facility, which has quadrupled the warehouse space available to receive, store, and ship food items to its various pantry sites. Wes Snook, a longtime store director in the Des Moines area who helped launch the first Colossal Cookie Sale in 2003, recalls that Hy-Vee’s food donation that first year had to be transported to an offsite location for storage because DMARC didn’t have space at its facility to handle a shipment that big. It’s a testament to how far the organization has progressed over the last decade, with the help of dedicated partners like Hy-Vee.
“Hy-Vee’s commitment to service extends beyond the walls of our stores to encompass the communities in which we operate. Throughout the Midwest, our stores are encouraged to be active participants in the fabric of community life and partner with organizations working to address local needs. For more than 50 years, our Des Moines-area stores have taken this charge to heart and created special events, promotions and fund-raising campaigns that have really made a difference and enhanced the quality of life for residents of Iowa’s capital city. Recognizing that supermarkets have a role to play in helping combat hunger and food insecurity, they came up with the idea for a Colossal Cookie Sale that not only raises much-needed funds for DMARC’s Food Pantry Network, but also engages employees and customers to raise awareness of an important community issue.”
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