Carma Mohler Grant Spotlight | Iowa United Methodist Foundation

Waterloo Food Nook at Waterloo First United Methodist Church

April 19, 2024

Entrance sign to Waterloo Food NookAs a charitable organization, the Foundation knows it is not just about giving grants; it’s about the transformative power such gifts can have. Recently, our staff had the privilege of visiting Carma Mohler Grant recipient Waterloo First United Methodist Church and its Food Nook to witness the impact ours and other grants have had on their program and surrounding community.

Volunteers helping clients check in

Food Nook volunteers (from top) Corinne Jordan, Kris Stewart and Kathy Cooley helping clients to sign in when they arrive and check out (by weighing the food) when they leave.

Waterloo First United Methodist Church is located in the “Church Row” neighborhood of Waterloo, a lower income area where food insecurity is common. Although the Food Nook is open to all eligible Waterloo residents, the vast majority live near Church Row, with over half of their clients walking to get food from them each week. One volunteer told us the neighborhood has a high immigrant population and that the Food Nook regularly serves a mix of Hispanic, white, Bosnian, Burmese, African American and Haitian clients. According to a recent survey of Church Row conducted by Habitat for Humanity, around one quarter of area residents make less than $15,000 per year, making many eligible for the Food Nook’s aid (families qualify for food assistance at 185% of the poverty level or below). With so many eligible residents nearby, the Food Nook regularly distributes over 700 pounds of food during the hour they are open each week.

The magnitude of and rising need in this neighborhood was a deciding factor in awarding a grant to this group. Several community members wrote letters in support of the Food Nook, one of which said it is “a beacon of hope for those struggling with food insecurity in the Church Row community. Volunteers’ tireless efforts have been instrumental in extending a helping hand to those who need it most.” Our Grants Committee was also impressed by the Food Nook’s efforts to break the poverty cycle in the area. For example, their hours of operation coincide with times that English classes are offered at the church to Haitian immigrants. Many clients come to get groceries from the Food Nook, then stay to learn English, with the goal of getting a job in the near future. They also supply clients with information about SNAP benefits and connect some to the “Getting Ahead in the Cedar Valley” program.

As steward of the generous donation left by Carma Mohler, the Foundation’s Grants Committee takes its job of selecting worthy grant candidates seriously. The Waterloo Food Nook’s dedication to feeding their neighbors personifies Ms. Mohler’s dream of eliminating hunger in Iowa, and we know she would be proud of this choice.

You can learn more about the Waterloo Food Nook here and donate to the Carma Mohler Grant Fund here. Carma Mohler Grant applications are accepted July 1 – October 1 annually.