Healthy food on a small budget

Bills, holiday shopping and the cost of living can put a damper on the funds a family has for healthy foods. To help those people, SHARE Iowa can offer big savings on food packages.

SHARE, Self Help and Resource Exchange, is a volunteer-run organization that provides savings of up to 50 percent on groceries. Dawn Farr, Volunteer Coordinator with the SHARE program in Fort Dodge, said the organizations functions like a food co-op. The statewide SHARE Iowa organization buys from vendors in bulk and resells it.

Farr works with 20 volunteers out of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge. By volunteering her time to take and process orders, and through the work of others to sort orders when they come in, the overhead costs of the groups remains minimal. Farr said the program is a boon for unemployed or working class people with low incomes.

“There’s that niche in society where it’s hard to make ends meet between bills, payments, gas and other things. For many of those people, getting a healthy meal for themselves is the last thing on their minds and budget,” Farr said. “What SHARE does is offer people healthy food to buy at affordable rates.”

A typical food package bought through SHARE contains frozen meats, grocery items and fresh produce. Most packages cost about $25. Packages can be ordered monthly and each month has new packages to order. December’s menu includes a Christmas dinner package and a meat and cheese box, among other items.

Buyers purchase packages, which are then delivered to Fort Dodge where they can pick them up on a determined date between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. For Thanksgiving, Farr said that about 60 people ordered 253 packages.

“Most people don’t understand what it’s about at first, but when they do try it, they keep coming back,” Farr said. “Those who take the jump and order realize it’s a really good program.”

For Farr and other volunteers with the program, the gratitude and appreciate they receive is worth their effort. She said a person spoke to her recently who had her food stamps cut by $125 and was able to continue to make her ends meet by participating in the program.

Volunteering is not only a key part of SHARE for those who keep the program running, but also for those who buy through it. Farr said that buyers are asked to contribute a couple volunteer hours to their community. Their website,, lists many suggestions for volunteering from being involved in the SHARE program to helping senior neighbors, picking up litter, helping with church activities and much more.

“It’s really exciting for those who volunteer to know that they’re giving back,” Farr said.

Others give directly to purchase food packages for others. Farr said one family donated several packages for Thanksgiving and plans to donate more this Christmas.

Orders for this month’s food packages are due by Dec. 8. To order packages, or for more information on the SHARE Iowa organization, visit To volunteer, donate or find more information on the Fort Dodge SHARE location, contact Farr at 570-3744.