Food pantry gives back to the community with free meal

On Sept. 29th, the Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry teamed up with the Coralville library to bring an evening of food and fun to the community.

Mary Vander Weg, Online Graphic Designer

‘Give food, give hope’ was the slogan at the Sept. 29th free community meal in Coralville. For the third time this year, the Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry and the Coralville library paired up to bring an evening of good food and fun to the community.

Started by the food pantry, the community meal began as a way to encourage clean eating.

“We wanted to find a way to encourage fresh food grown locally,” said John Boller, executive director of the Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry. A year later, the Coralville library joined in on the action and brought a whole new light to the idea.

We were noticing kids who would hang out at the library all night, without going home for dinner.”

— Ellen Alexander

“We were noticing kids who would hang out at the library all night, without going home for dinner,” said Ellen Alexander, assistant director of the library. “When the food pantry moved closer, we started talking with them about it.”

Friday’s meal was only the second organized by the pair, but its impact has been evident.

“I believe the library [being involved] helps people to feel that they’re not coming for a handout, but rather to be part of the community” Alexander said. “We see regulars and all sorts of new people.”

The Free Meal provided its attendees with locally sourced tacos, fruits and vegetables, along with community made apple desserts, served by volunteers of all ages.  

Along with dinner, children and adults alike could enjoy a number of fun activities. These include a banned-books themed photobooth, the Antelope Lending Library bookmobile, arts and crafts and bubbles for the kids.

“My favorite part was the kid area,” said Coralville Central student Claire Reimer, ‘29, “I’m having a lot of fun.”

The evening also included a performance by Two-Hearted, a local band featuring several local teachers.

“[My favorite part] was sitting on the grass, listening to the music,” said attendee Kate Wolniak-Bujakowska, “but the kids’ favorite part was the bubbles!”

Hoping to host another meal in January, those behind the event said they felt it was a success.

“I really love seeing all these people come together,” Boller said. “And we’re even running out of food!”

“We would love to do more, we just love doing it,” Alexander said. “I mean, how often are this many people in one place without complaining?”