Johnson County Hunger Taskforce releases guide to free neighborhood meals
The Johnson County Hunger Taskforce is a coalition of local governments and nonprofit service providers dedicated to alleviating hunger through research, collaboration and targeted action. The taskforce grew out of a conference in 2014, and is charged with presenting research and recommendations to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors early next year.
As they wrap-up their research, the Healthy Foods Committee of the Johnson County Hunger Taskforce has released a guide to free neighborhood meals as one mechanism for alleviating hunger and building relationships between helpers and people struggling with hunger.
Guide to Free Neighborhood Meals
A Free Neighborhood Meal requires a lot of helping hands. It is recommended to form a planning committee of at least six people who can coordinate different aspects of the planning process – whether sponsorship recruitment, food procurement, volunteer management, menu planning, equipment rental, and so on.
Utilize local assets as much as possible:
- Identify and partner closely with a host organization that serves the community in which the meal will be served
- Recruit volunteers that live, work, or are invested in the community
- Engage sponsors that do business in the community.
- Involve churches that worship in the community.
- Procure food from local farmers.
- Promote through local influential leaders (teachers, churches, nonprofit organizations)
- It is better to have too much food than too little – as long as you have a plan for the excess. Planning food purchases for a recent Free Neighborhood Meal in Johnson County proved to be challenging due to not knowing how many people would actually attend the event. While 150 attended, enough food was prepared to feed at least 300 people. Excess food was bagged up and distributed to event attendees and volunteers. While it was nice to distribute the leftover food, in retrospect, it would have been best to scale back the total amount of food purchased and prepared.
- Many hands make lighter work – especially during clean up! We highly recommend making sure you have plenty of volunteers willing to stick around afterwards to help tear down the venue, transport equipment back to the kitchen, and wash and dry dishes. We were lucky to have at least 10 people stay, which made a daunting clean-up task go relatively quickly.
- Find a sponsoring organization. To ensure a successful Free Neighborhood Meal, it is recommended to identify a local organization as the event’s “sponsoring organization,” which can take the lead on tasks such as securing a venue, finding financial support, promoting the meal, and mobilizing volunteers. The sponsoring organization should be active in the community in which the Free Neighborhood Meal will be held – with experience serving the target population and having strong relationships with local business and faith communities.
Photo credits: John Boller, Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry
Invitation: Celebrate the Season at the World Food Prize Holiday Open House