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Waterloo’s free lunch program has been put on hold while a new cook is hired



Waterloo, Iowa – The Salvation Army gymnasium in Waterloo-Cedar Falls was empty at midday on Monday for the first time.

The Salvation Army’s free lunch program has been available on Mondays and Fridays for the last two months. Because of a staffing shortfall, the organization was forced to halt the program.

”We’ve just had to temporarily pause on the feeding until we get a new cook,” said Martin Thies with the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Salvation Army.

Owing to health concerns, the previous manager of food programs had to step down. Since then, staff members and volunteers have made an effort to maintain the lunch program.

”You got to understand a lot of the folks that we serve really depend on this meal,” Thies said.

The Salvation Army reported that it is lacking personnel in a number of departments. The midday lunch service has been suspended as staff members are being redirected to its juvenile program and emergency shelters.

”We have lots of volunteers who are fabulous, but they shouldn’t be running the program on their own. We need a staff member to run point as it were,” Thies said.

The free midday meal program was scaled back to run just two days a week.

”Even in our reduced numbers, we were still serving around 100 people. People still need this program, we believe the community still wants this program and we’ve still been trying to make it go under difficulty,” Thies said.

However, until a cook is hired, the weekly meals—which provide a great opportunity for fellowship for those who attend—will not resume.

”The biggest part of our food program is the fellowship people have here. That’s the most important part. Even bigger than having the food and sitting down to eat it is the fellowship with the other folks,” Thies said. “That part is difficult to lose.”

”We’re just looking for someone who has that same kind of fire. That it’s not really about the food, it’s about wanting to be a blessing just with who they are and share that,” Thies said.

Everything will continue as usual at the Salvation Army’s weekly Perishable Goods Pantry. Every Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., that pantry is open.