Summer lunch program winds down in Iowa City, leaving room for expansion next year

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Students in Iowa City are less than two weeks from returning to the classroom, but that hasn't stopped a summer program from closing its doors just yet.

Free summer lunches were offered at the Senior Center in Iowa City on Monday, August 12, 2019- but it was part of a summer program to keep kids fed for lunch during the summer months. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)

The city partnered with Horizons: A Family Service Alliance to host a free summer lunch program for kids across the city, but things are slowing down as school gets closer.

Those final numbers are still being tallied city-wide, but at the Iowa City Senior Center, staff estimated the total number of lunches hit triple digits. For that location, it was a good sign in more ways than one.

"I think it's great that these kids have something good to eat," Lynne Cannon, who volunteers at the Senior Center during the summer lunch program, said.

Cannon's job is ensuring everyone who needs lunch, gets lunch.

"These children need good lunches," Cannon said. "And they come down from Cedar Rapids, I think somebody ought to be here to dole them out."

2019 marked the first time the Senior Center has hosted summer lunches for kids- and this year, it had a solid start.

"100 meals we probably have been able to provide for folks," LaTasha DeLoach, the Senior Center Coordinator in Iowa City, said. "It may not be like 400, but that's 100 more meals that someone got to eat that they might not have."

But things have slowed down, as school starts back up. The kids' new lunch friends, those that frequent the Senior Center on a regular basis, have noticed.

"I can't really quite describe it," DeLoach said. "It was one of those things when we didn't have a few kids one day, that you really noticed the change or you really noticed the difference."

Cannon said she noticed people are happier when children are around to share lunch with the seniors.

"And a lot of the people who are used to having little children around, come and talk to them, and I think that's wonderful," Cannon said.

So while nobody showed up Monday, it is not a discouraging sign. At least for some, the meals speak for themselves.

"I think it's a very good program," Cannon said.

The Senior Center in Iowa City will host those free meals for kids Wednesday, August 14, Friday, August 16, Monday, August 19, and Wednesday, August 21. Adults can eat for $4.