116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Nonprofit Urban Dreams will open a food pantry starting Thursday as part of the Ladd Library’s Opportunity Center to help address food insecurity and deepen community ties as part of its workforce partnership with the city of Cedar Rapids.
The food pantry, established in collaboration with the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the organization’s location at the library’s Opportunity Center, 3750 Williams Blvd. SW.
“This food pantry will serve an important need for our clients, and many others who utilize the Ladd library,” Elizabeth Buch, an Urban Dreams workforce coordinator, said in a statement. “We partner with a number of nonprofits in the Cedar Rapids area and have found through exploring services that the food pantry is located in a perfect location to complement and expand existing services that address food insecurity.”
The Des Moines-based organization began a partnership with Cedar Rapids last summer to connect underserved populations such as high school dropouts, those with criminal convictions and people who are under- or unemployed with opportunities in the local workforce and job-training programs. This helps the city achieve its workforce goals and provide key services to residents who have historically struggled to access city programs.
The nonprofit already operates a full-service food pantry five days a week at its Des Moines location. Executive Director Izaah Knox said the team established a food pantry because when people come in for substance abuse evaluations or outpatient treatment, for events or for other information, they would often ask about the location of the closest food pantry.
When Urban Dreams started in 1985, Knox said it was just a place where people could come no matter the weather to watch TV, make calls on the phone or use as an address if they were experiencing homelessness.
“We were just a place and people started talking to us about the things that they needed,” Knox said. “So we started to investigate on how we can make those things happen in a real authentic way so that it was really what the community — not what we thought was best for the community, but actually what people needed.”
Earlier in its partnership with Cedar Rapids, after the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho, Urban Dreams leveraged relationships with existing partners Hy-Vee and Atlantic Bottling Company to help the city set up the first meal site at the First Avenue Hy-Vee and secure donations of shelf stable milk and beverages, according to a news release. Urban Dreams, the city and Hy-Vee also partnered before Thanksgiving to distribute holiday meal packs.
City Economic Development Manager Jasmine Almoayyed said when people are in line for food, it provides an opportunity to hear their experiences and struggles they face. “That's literally a big piece of how they get connected to these populations in Cedar Rapids that we have historically had problems getting in front of,” Almoayyed said of the Urban Dreams team’s approach.
So far, the Urban Dreams staff has met with 27 interested area employers including Travero, Raining Rose, ImOn Communications and Hy-Vee to establish job candidate referral programs. Employers work with the nonprofit’s staff to incorporate inclusionary hiring strategies, career guidance for participants and to report ongoing progress.
For the prospective employee, Urban Dreams helps teach the 'soft skills” needed to succeed in the workforce, such as how to get feedback, dress appropriately for a business environment and manage time effectively. Other forms of training and job shadow opportunities continue once an individual is employed.
More information about upcoming events such as job fairs, a community car checkup and an expungement clinic with Iowa Legal Aid will be shared on Urban Dreams’ social media accounts and at urbandreams.org/event-calendar.
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