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The Free Lunch Program (FLP) is one of the “quiet services” in the Iowa City area. It began in January 1983 when two therapists from the Community Mental Health Center, wishing to address the concerns of their clients, spoke to a Lenten study group at St. Mary’s Parish about the need for a free meal for the needy in the community. The response was, “Let’s do it.”

By 1989, the Free Lunch Program had become a designated United Way agency and expanded to a six-day-a-week meal program with over 35 different religious, student, neighborhood, and social groups providing the meals. FLP volunteers now number over 900. Volunteer teams prepare and serve nutritious meals using their own food or the food from local restaurants, grocery stores, and food distributors via Table to Table Food Rescue Organization, and from items in the Free Lunch pantry obtained through the HACAP Food Reservoir.

Respecting the dignity of the guests has been the cornerstone of its service. “An open door, a full plate, no questions asked.” This guiding principle of unconditional respect and hospitality has been as integral to the program as the hot, nourishing meals.

35

Volunteer groups

900

Volunteers annually

140

Meals served daily