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Community

Have a healthy meal and make new friends at Horizons' Lunch Club in Cedar Rapids every weekday

The Brownstone Lunch Club hopes to tackle hunger and social isolation within the community

India Snow, Client Services Manager at Horizons, brings mustard to diners Lucille Mangrich (left) and Bonnie Tiedtke, both of Cedar Rapids, during the grand opening of the rebranded Lunch Club, formerly known as Congregate Meals, at Horizons in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
India Snow, Client Services Manager at Horizons, brings mustard to diners Lucille Mangrich (left) and Bonnie Tiedtke, both of Cedar Rapids, during the grand opening of the rebranded Lunch Club, formerly known as Congregate Meals, at Horizons in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — While trying to think of ways to rebrand Horizons’ congregate meal program, Horizons community health and nutrition director Sofia Mehaffey contacted a nonprofit in Dublin, Ireland, to see how it ran its meal programs. She was told the name “congregate meals” doesn’t sound attractive. Instead, this nonprofit called its similar program a “Lunch Club.”

The Brownstone Lunch Club held its grand opening last week, welcoming a group of community members and Horizons volunteers and staff to enjoy the ceremonial first meal.

Lunch Club takes place at Horizons, 819 Fifth St. SE, at 11:15 a.m. Monday through Friday. Mehaffey said the club is a place for people to meet up and make friends while ensuring people are eating a nutritious meal.

“We build a community by supporting those who are suffering,” she said.

With prices increasing on all sorts of things, Mehaffey said, it’s important to help people and make sure they have a good meal, especially those with a fixed income.

Another Lunch Club goal is to combat isolation. For Horizons Meals on Wheels clients, seeing a Horizons volunteer delivering a meal may be that person’s only social interaction, she said, adding that having a lunch space hopefully will encourage people to come out and eat with others.

Sandy Osborn, Horizons kitchen manager, said she spends most of her time at work getting things in order for the 1,000 meals Horizons makes a day.

“I don’t usually get out of the kitchen much,” she said. “With our delivery meals, I don’t get to see the people we’re helping. Here, I can interact with them.”

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Heritage Specialty Care, 200 Clive Dr. SW, donated to help launch the Lunch Club, Mehaffey said, including sprucing up and transforming an old meeting space into a place for lunch.

Donations from Heritage also allowed for a salad bar to be set up, which is supplied with fresh produce Horizons already was growing.

A choice of two different entrees are given each day in addition to the salad bar, but Horizons has also begun an International Food Day once a month to give people a taste of something new.

“I was out with one of our volunteers helping deliver meals for Meals on Wheels, and I asked one of our clients what sort of things he would like. He told me, ‘Hungarian goulash,’” Mehaffey said in reference to how the idea for International Food Day began.

The grand opening coincided with German day, which featured a meal of brats, potato salad, sauerkraut salad and German apple cake.

Anyone can come enjoy a meal for $7, Mehaffey said, but those who are more than 60 years old are asked for a voluntary contribution in exchange for a meal if they’re able to give one. However, not everyone can pay this contribution, she said, which is why the organization relies on donations to keep programs like Lunch Club running.

The Brownstone Lunch Club had a soft opening about a month ago, Mehaffey said. Since then, they’ve seen about 14 people a day for lunch, which is an increase from the four people a day they used to see. Hopefully, she said, the Cedar Rapids location will see the same 40-person attendance average as the Iowa City one.

For a monthly Lunch Club menu, visit horizonsfamily.org.

l Comments: kayli.reese@thegazette.com

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