DMARC’s new building at 100 Army Post Road. The agency purchased the building last year and is in the middle of renovations in hopes of moving in in early spring 2022. Photo by Michael Crumb

The Des Moines Area Religious Council launched a $5.6 million capital campaign today that leaders say will help the interfaith agency expand its capacity to serve its clients in a new building on Army Post Road, which it hopes to move into in early spring 2022.

The “Food Today. Change Tomorrow” campaign will allow DMARC to move to the former Iowa Medicaid building at 100 Army Post Road, leaving its current headquarters on Mulberry Street in downtown Des Moines.

The sprawling, more than 48,000-square-foot building, originally built as an Albertson’s grocery store, allows DMARC to start with a blank slate as it renovates it into office space, conference and training rooms, leased space for some of its partner organizations, and a warehouse that will be four times larger than the agency’s current warehouse.

DMARC CEO Matt Unger said moving to Army Post Road will allow the agency to add a 15th permanent food pantry location to its pantry network, and allow the redistribution of some of its mobile food pantries that currently serve the area to other parts of the community where need is high.

“We’re out of space for people, we’re out of space for food, we’re operating out of two locations that are 4 miles apart, which creates all kinds of logistical challenges,” Unger said. “It also provides a better area for our volunteers that is bigger, safer, better lit. It allows us to have a pantry on-site where we can provide food assistance in our building in an area of town that could use additional pantry service.”

The move will also revolutionize DMARC’s cold storage capacity, he said.

“Our cooling capacity will increase 10 times over,” he said. “There have been a number of times that we couldn’t take donations because we didn’t have the space to store it.”

Unger said increasing warehouse space will help DMARC maximize dollars by buying larger volumes at lower costs, and having that food delivered on trucks that they are already paying for, and having more supplies like diapers, soap and toilet paper regularly stocked. It will also allow DMARC to increase items to meet the needs of the community’s growing refugee population, he said.

“We know we’re having additional refugees coming into the community, and we want to be able to set them up for success and make sure they have all the things they need,” Unger said. “We believe in providing a dignified experience and we think dignity means having food you’re used to eating and having foods that you want to be eating. Being able to do that helps us meet our mission mark of providing a dignified shopping experience.

“It’s about providing in a way that meets folks' needs where they’re at,” he said. “It allows them to live a healthy, normal life.”

Unger said the new building also will increase room for staff.

Currently, some DMARC staff members share office space, and there is additional staff that needs to be added, he said.

The current building lacks conference room space, so the DMARC board has had to meet  off-site.

“Now we’ll be able to host them in our own meeting, see our mission in action and interact more with DMARC staff,” Unger said.

DMARC purchased the building from William Knapp LC in November 2020 for $2.69 million.

Although the capital campaign was publicly launched today, DMARC had already received donations to help with the purchase of the building and begin construction earlier than first planned, he said.

So far, $1.5 million has been raised. DMARC also plans to sell its current building on Mulberry Street, where it has been located since 2014.

Emily Webb, a member of the DMARC board and chair of the capital campaign, said the campaign will help DMARC continue and expand the important work that it does in the fight against food insecurity, and help “people be productive and thriving members of the community.”

“And if those people are thriving, then they can give back, so it’s great for everyone,” Webb said. “In addition, this space will allow the community to get more involved than they’ve been able to. Our space downtown doesn't have a community center. It doesn't have an opportunity for us to educate people who volunteer. Now we can have volunteers on-site and provide those volunteer opportunities. It will give us space for board meetings. It will give us space to collaborate with partners. It will really provide a community space for everyone.”

Unger said the need for more space is about helping people at a time when need continues to rise. Last year, DMARC helped more than 58,000 people who were living in food insecurity.

“Since 2014, the number of … individuals we’re assisting every year through our food pantry network has risen nearly 80%,” he said. “We are facing a moral imperative that if we do not move to a bigger, more effective space, we are knowingly setting ourselves up to leave many hungry children, seniors and families behind.”

 

Matt Unger speaks about DMARC’s new capital campaign to move its headquarters to a larger building on Army Post Road.


Emily Webb speaks about DMARC’s new capital campaign to move its headquarters to a larger building on Army Post Road.