Cedar Rapids project feeds people 'falling through the cracks' during pandemic

A box of food offered through Matthew 25's Pantry Pickup Project (Courtesy: Bridget Williams)
A box of food offered through Matthew 25's Pantry Pickup Project (Courtesy: Bridget Williams)(KCRG)
Published: May. 6, 2020 at 10:21 PM CDT
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Though the Matthew 25 office is temporarily closed, the Cedar Rapids organization, which focuses on empowering people through food, has remained busy over the last month through its new Pantry Pickup Project.

“We have delivered over 200 free food boxes to residents in Linn County,” Bridget Williams, a Green Iowa AmeriCorps member at Matthew 25 and the project’s creator, said.

Williams said she was inspired to start the program after participating in a coronavirus-related call with LAP-AID, the Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster, and hearing another member organization discuss how one of its clients couldn’t leave their home to get food and couldn’t afford grocery delivery services.

“The response to this program really shows me how many barriers there are to success, especially when a crisis like this hits,” Williams said.

The Pantry Pickup Project is geared toward people who Williams says have a newfound need for food, have lost their usual ways to get it, or who don’t qualify for others programs, like Meals on Wheels.

“I would say a majority of our clients are people who don’t have a vehicle, so they must’ve been getting food through transit services, or they just lost their job, and they don’t know what to do, as well as a number of families who are quarantining because of the virus,” Williams said.

People who want help can fill out

, or call (319) 214-3290 to request it.

Then the next day, a volunteer will pick up a box from Olivet Neighborhood Mission in northwest Cedar Rapids and deliver it. Boxes are filled with items like milk, eggs, bread, meat, produce, and shelf-stable food items and usually have enough food to last a week or two, according to Williams.

The project happens thanks to assistance from a handful of organizations, besides Matthew 25.

“United Way helps us to secure dedicated volunteers, Olivet Neighborhood Mission boxes and supplies the food, and we’re working with the Catherine McAuley Center to address language barriers,” Williams said.

Like the pandemic itself, Williams doesn’t know how long this project will last, but she said she doesn’t think it’ll end anytime soon.

“It is kind of getting to people who are falling through the cracks, who wouldn’t have any other way to get food, so this program has really turned out to be a critical service to people,” Williams said.