Addressing the Food Need in Our Community: How the Casserole Program Came to Be
In the summer of 2020, we began to see firsthand the increasing need for food - especially healthy food options - in our community and specifically in our North End neighborhood. Through our partnerships with Project Rooted and St. Stephen's Food Bank (a branch of Riverbend Food Bank) around increasing access to healthy food during this time, we were seeing how the pandemic and its effects on the economy had exposed a lot of food insecurity that already existed as well as significantly increased the need for food.
Simultaneously, our Convivium gardens were in full bloom! Gardens that had been planned and planted with our restaurant, catering menu, and cooking classes in mind... none of which were happen in the same capacity, or at all, because of COVID. So we started to brainstorm the best ways to utilize the 3000 pounds of produce we had coming in to help meet the food need we were seeing all around us. And so the Community Casserole Program was launched!
With some grant money from the City of Dubuque, we launched a 12-week pilot version of the Free Community Casserole Program to distribute 100 fully-cooked casseroles each week, that were available for pick up here at Convivium Urban Farmstead. The program was an immediate success. With the help of dozens of volunteers each week, we chopped vegetables, assembled and baked the meals, and then handed them out each Thursday afternoon. Many recipients shared stories of how helpful it was to have one meal each week taken cared of, others shared stories of their husbands and children tried new vegetables and foods they never would have otherwise! We knew we had to continue... and with the help of the community, we were able to not only keep going, but found ways to grow and expand based on the needs of those receiving the meals.
Now, nearly a year after first starting, we have distributed over 7,500 meals -- nearly 4,000 of which were delivered to residents' homes.
Ways we expanded: We increased from 100 meals a week to over 200. We now offer two pick up locations and times, one at Convivium and another at Resources Unite. Through our volunteer network and a partnership with DuRide, we deliver over 100 meals each week to peoples' homes all around Dubuque. Over half of the participants who sign up for deliver have someone in the home who is disabled. These meals continue to be prepared with ingredients we grew ourselves, with one whole garden space dedicated to growing for the casserole program.
With your support, we can continue providing over 800 servings of free, wholesome meals each week.
Ways you can help:
Along with the donations made from generous community members, we would also like to thank our past and ongoing corporate donors, including: The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, The City of Dubuque, the Sister of St. Francis, Dubuque Stamping & Manufacturing, and Theisen's More for Your Community Grant.