Providing good food & hospitality since 1983

Served Monday-Saturday 12-1 at 1105 S. Gilbert Court in Iowa City, Iowa

The Free Lunch Program (FLP) is one of the quiet services in the Iowa City area. It began in January 1983 when two therapists from the Community Mental Health Center, wishing to address the concerns of their clients, spoke to a Lenten study group at St. Mary's Parish about the need for a free meal for the needy in the community. The response was, "Let's do it."

By 1989, the Free Lunch Program had become a designated United Way agency and expanded to a 6-day-a-week meal program with over 35 different religious, student, neighborhood, and social groups providing the meals. FLP volunteers now number over 900. Volunteer teams prepare and serve nutritious meals using their own food or the food from local restaurants, grocery stores, and food distributors via Table to Table Food Rescue Organization, and from items in the Free Lunch pantry obtained through the HACAP Food Reservoir.

Respecting the dignity of the guests has been the cornerstone of its service. "An open door, a full plate, no questions asked." This guiding principle of unconditional respect and hospitality has been as integral to the program as the hot, nourishing meals.

How you can help

You can help financially.

To donate, simply click on the button below to use your credit card, or send your check, payable to the Free Lunch Program, directly to:

Free Lunch Program
1105 Gilbert Ct. Suite 100
Iowa City, IA 52240

Donate now using claims 4.5% of each donation for administrative costs.

Make a gift to the Mary Palmberg Free Lunch Program Fund at the Community Foundation of Johnson County.

You can donate food.

For a current list of most-needed items, contact the FLP director & volunteer coordinator.

You can give your time and energy.

Consider these options:

  • Help a serving team
  • Clean part of the kitchen
  • Work on a food drive
  • Come have lunch and visit with the guests

Contact Us

One of the FLP's co-directors will be glad to answer your questions about the FLP.

Comments about the FLP...

...from our guests:

  • "The FLP is a vital part of our community. I am very thankful to the volunteers."
  • "If I didn't eat at Free Lunch everyday and take seconds back with me, I would not be able to pay my rent and I'd be homeless again. You don't know how this affects everyone's spirits to have this for us - it really helps us a lot."
  • "I appreciate having a warm place to socialize and eat for free, and the caring and respect shown to us by the volunteers."

...from some of our volunteers:

  • "It makes me realize that there is a much bigger world out there than what I'm personally in contact with on a day-to-day basis."
  • "The people at the FLP have needs that go far beyond hunger. We, as volunteers, can soften some harshness, not just with food, but with hospitality."

THANK YOU to our volunteer serving teams:

  • Agudas Achim Congregation, Iowa City Friends Meeting, Iowa City
  • Amana Church Society/Clear Creek Amana Middle School, Amana
  • Asbury United Methodist Church, Wellman
  • Christ the King Lutheran Church, Iowa City
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Iowa City
  • Congregational United Church of Christ, Iowa City
  • Coralville United Methodist Church, Coralville, & St. Raphael Orthodox Church, Iowa City
  • First Mennonite Church & Faith United Church of Christ, Iowa City
  • First Presbyterian Church, Iowa City
  • First United Methodist Church, Iowa City
  • First United Methodist Church of North Liberty
  • Gloria Dei Lutheran Church & Lutheran Campus Ministry, Iowa City
  • Johnson County Democrats and OFA (Organizing for America), Iowa City
  • Johnson County Victim Advisory Board, Coralville
  • New Life Community Church, Coralville
  • Newman Center, Iowa City
  • Parkview Evangelical Free Church, Iowa City
  • Pilot Club of Iowa City
  • Plum Grove Neighborhood, Iowa City
  • St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Iowa City
  • St. Joseph's Parish, Hills
  • St. Mark's United Methodist Church, Iowa City
  • St. Mary's Parish, Iowa City
  • St. Mary's Parish, Solon
  • St. Patrick's Parish, Iowa City
  • St. Thomas More Parish, Iowa City
  • St. Wenceslaus Parish, Iowa City
  • Sathya Sai Group, Iowa City
  • Sharon Center United Methodist Church, Sharon Center
  • Shueyville United Methodist Church, Shueyville
  • Trinity Episcopal Church, Iowa City
  • Unitarian Universalist Society, Iowa City
  • United Church of Faith, Keota
  • West Union Mennonite Church, Parnell
  • Zion Lutheran Church, Iowa City

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Some Free Lunch Program facts

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