New Meals on Wheels Campus to Triple Meal Capacity

August 09, 2022  |  by WesleyLife

MOW WES Revised Exteiror 2WesleyLife will transform a building in the Drake University neighborhood of Des Moines into a new Meals on Wheels campus that will help power the fight against food insecurity among older adults and military veterans in Central Iowa by tripling meal capacity and offering programming to combat isolation, the organization announced today. (Read the Des Moines Business Record story on this project here!)

The initiative was empowered by a gift of $1.05 million from Des Moines philanthropist and Drake University’s “The Ones” campaign co-chair Suzie Glazer Burt, in cooperation with Drake University. The university provided a building at 3206 University Ave. — the institution’s former College of Education building — to WesleyLife, which will redesign the space into a hub of meal creation and social interaction.

“I am pleased to support this transformative project to address food insecurity in our community,” Burt said. “Following the opening of the Gregory & Suzie Glazer Burt Boys & Girls Club at Drake University, this new WesleyLife Meals on Wheels initiative furthers my passion to ensure that no one goes hungry. At the heart of our community is collaboration, and I am happy to foster this connection with WesleyLife and Drake University that will ultimately impact thousands of vulnerable older adults and veterans.”

Including the gift of the building, the So Much More than Meals campaign has raised $5.6 million toward the project. The campus is slated to open next year to replace WesleyLife Meals on Wheels’ current operation at 944 18th Street in Des Moines, which produces about 1,000 meals a day and houses offices and meeting space.

Details of the initiative include:
- Building a kitchen 65 percent larger than the current one. The increased size will grow meal-production capacity from 1,000 to 3,000 meals per day and expand the geographic reach of the existing program.
- Developing a 3,000-square-foot indoor hydroponic garden that will grow leafy greens and other vegetables to enhance the meals’ nutritional quality.
- Providing on-site multigenerational programming and experiences to help combat social isolation among the area’s older adults and veterans, many of whom live alone.

Tri-chairs The So Much More than Meals campaign is spearheaded by Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly, community leader and retired Des Moines City Council member Christine Hensley, and AARP State Director Brad Anderson. Volunteer committee members, including prominent business leaders and philanthropists across Central Iowa, are bolstering their efforts.

“Studies show around 9,000 older adults in Polk County are food-insecure, and this project is mission-critical to allow us to triple the amount of hot, nutritious meals we deliver each week,” Connolly said. Hensley echoed that, adding her gratitude to the campaign’s major contributors.
“Our public and private sectors stand behind this important project and are partnering together to address these critical community needs,” she said.

Anderson touched on the project’s premise around social isolation, quoting a National Institute on Aging study that equates the risks of isolation with those of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
“Through multigenerational programming, we will address this issue by connecting people of all age cohorts through experiential arts, culture and educational programming,” Anderson said.

Major contributors to the campaign include AARP, the Polk County Board of Supervisors, the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Corteva, Delta Dental of Iowa, Graham Family Foundation, Kemin Industries, Tom and Linda Koehn, Steve and Cathy Lacy, Nix and Virginia Lauridsen, MidAmerican Energy Company, Prairie Meadows, Principal Foundation, Riley Family Foundation, Ruan Family Foundation and the Wellmark Foundation. Learn more about the campaign or make a contribution here! , please visit

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