116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa City church serves free lunch for Pheasant Ridge neighborhood kids
An estimated 10 percent of children in Johnson County and 8.2 percent of county residents are facing food insecurity.
Every day at noon, Samar Adam, 11, walks with her brother and sister down the hill from their home to Iowa City’s Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center to eat lunch.
Adam, a Pheasant Ridge resident who is going into the sixth grade, is one of the 80 children who have eaten free lunch provided by the St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Iowa City this summer.
The church is offering a free lunch to children every day at the neighborhood center until August with food donations from the nonprofit, HACAP Food Pantry.
“I like the fact that they let us try new foods and bring new foods every day,” Adam said. “It’s just like something you can do in the morning instead of being stuck at home.”
Rob Martin, lead pastor at St. Andrews, said the church and HACAP identified the neighborhood as food insecure, prompting the collaboration.
“This year, we adopted an overall theme of food security and Pheasant Ridge is really a food desert,” he said. “It’s not just Pheasant Ridge folks who show up, it is people in need who come all through the neighborhood all the way through Broadway Street Neighborhood Center.”
Over an estimated 10 percent of children in Johnson County and 8.2 percent of county residents are facing food insecurity, according to Johnson County Social Services.
Tessa Musa, Pheasant Ridge Neighborhood Center site director, said having lunch brings kids to the center to do other activities like the garden and bike clubs.
“Kids that we don’t see or families that we don’t see are coming here for lunch,” she said. “A lot of it is word-of-mouth.”
Musa added that the lunch is specifically for Pheasant Ridge residents, and it comes at a time when prices of food are rising, stressing families.
From April to May, food prices were 10.1 percent higher than in May 2021, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture May report.
Before the pandemic, the church handed out lunch provided by the Iowa City Community School District, but upon partnering with HACAP Food Pantry, Heather Woodin, lead church volunteer, said the church took the program over.
“A lot of the food that we serve is from HACAP, so that means the church gets it for free or at a reduced price,” she said. “We are all about strengthening families and giving kids and families the resources they need to be successful.”
Woodin said the church gives children foods in the five food groups, and has daily challenges for them to earn star stickers. One recent challenge was for everyone at lunch to eat a food that is soft.
After the children collectively had 500 stars in week two of the program, the church hosted an ice cream party with 47 attendees, Woodin said.
Another Pheasant Ridge resident, Trteel Farah, 12, who is going into the seventh grade, said she goes to eat lunch at the neighborhood center to see her friends.
“It’s just something that I wake up to and we are like ‘Oh yeah, let’s do this.’”
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