DES MOINES, Iowa — The old Drake University School of Education building may not look like much, but in a years time, WesleyLife's Meals on Wheels will turn it into their campus.
"Coming out of COVID, we have had some real impacts with inflation, and primarily around fuel costs, because we drive vehicles all over town all day, every day, all day long," said Shannon Draayer, director of health and wellbeing for WesleyLife.
Despite inflation challenges, the team is excited to add another location to their organization.
"This building is going to allow us to expand our mission and to reach more folks in need," Draayer said.
The new building will focus on helping military veterans and elderly people who find themselves food insecure.
"Over 9,000 older adults in central Iowa are food insecure," said Sophia Ahmad, vice president of philanthropy for WesleyLife . "And that need is rising. With this new initiative, we're able to help address that really, really important growing need in our community."
The new development is in the works thanks to Drake University and a $500,000 Prairie Meadow Legacy Grant that will help the nonprofit remodel the space.
"The main element of this new building is a huge commercial kitchen," Draayer said. "It's about a 5,000 square foot commercial kitchen that's going to allow us to produce three times the meals. So we're going to be able to produce about 3,000 meals a day in this new kitchen."
Meals on Wheels' new campus will feature a hydroponic garden to help keep the meals coming.
"We'll be growing fresh produce right there on site in the lower level of the building," Draayer said. "And so those tomatoes, that lettuce, those herbs, they're all going to come up into the meals right on that main floor into our kitchen. So we're excited to incorporate more fresh produce."
Meals on Wheels currently serves 1,000 food insecure Iowans, and WesleyLife believes the new building will only make that number grow.