When in 2019 Whitney Sanger sat down with Brazen chef Kevin Scharpf and dreamed up the concept for a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting kids to fresh, healthy food, she had no idea of what that would actually mean just a short year later. Project Rooted was conceived around the vision of making sure that everyone has access to local, fresh, and nutritious meals. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and hunger became a frightening reality for families throughout her community, Whitney found herself deeply involved in the effort to make sure that Dubuque’s children had enough to eat. Furloughed from her job, she threw herself into building Project Rooted’s capacity to serve
premade meals to hundreds of kids throughout the City. But even as she struggled to meet the ever growing need for food, she remained committed to Project Rooted’s original mission of serving nutritious meals made with fresh ingredients, local flavor, and a loving hand.
Over the course of the next ten weeks, Project Rooted provided 35,000 free meals to children across Dubuque. Whitney helped lead a team of 200 volunteers who prepared meals, manned food drop-offs, and even delivered to families unable to leave their homes. She also helped respond to the evolving needs of her community, partnering with the Dubuque Community School District, Resources Unite, the Community Foundation, and other local organizations to make biweekly deliveries to nearly 100 Marshallese families. These meals were not only healthy and designed to be culturally appropriate, but were delivered at a time when more and more Marshallese families were caught at home, unable to leave because of the pandemic.
Even as Iowa begins to reopen, Whitney remains committed to helping bring fresh, local food to the families of her community. A mother of four, her love and hopes for her own children have shown her how important this project really is, and why it needs to continue. “This is just the beginning,” she says, as she prepares Project Rooted for the next chapter in its story to feed Dubuque.