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Dubuque business helps feed those struggling due to COVID-19 pandemic

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 4:37 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Aside from being a restaurant, staff at Convivium Urban Farmstead in Dubuque try to grow their own produce and offer cooking classes.

Logically, those classes were affected because of COVID-19.

“We had 3,000 pounds of produce that we did not know what to do with or did not have an outlet for, and we thought, 'Why don’t we try and figure out a way to use this and give back to the community, especially during this, during COVID,” Leslie Shalabi, co-founder of Convivium, said.

And that is how the Free Take N’ Bake Casserole program was born. Every Thursday for, at least, twelve weeks, staff and volunteers will be giving out free casseroles aimed to help those who are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Natalie Roling, Convivium education and program director, the experience has been rewarding.

“People are stretched thin, maybe working double shifts,” she mentioned. “It is just helpful to not have to think about maybe this one meal.”

“We are not solving the entire problem, but we are helping in the ways that we can,” Shalabi said. “For me this is just one concrete way that I am putting my energy to try to help.”

Zandra Schonhoff was first in line Thursday to grab her free casserole. She had already stopped by last week.

“This is first on the list," she said. "When I wake up, this is right where I am going first thing.”

For her, it is crucial to secure healthy meals. That is something she said she has struggled with during the pandemic.

“It is really hard to make sure you are eating right and with this program, I mean, I have cancer so it is absolutely perfect to make sure I am getting a good meal,” she mentioned.

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