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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Owners of Relish cooking up new plan to feed community, educate young adults

The new program won’t effect Relish’s day-to-day operations. By Kaya Matsuura.

Laura Fendt and Kamal Hammouda, the married owners of the restaurant Relish, are creating a new program aimed at alleviating food insecurity in the Grinnell community while also teaching young people how to select and prepare meals.

The couple first became aware of food insecurity in Grinnell in the wake of the August derecho. During the ensuing power outage, Relish served free meals with food that would have otherwise spoiled. After that, the couple began to notice how the financial and logistical issues created by the pandemic also limited some community members’ access to food.

After his unsuccessful bid for the 76th District Seat in the Iowa House of Representatives, Hammouda wanted to find another way to continue to give back to the community. He was inspired after he listened to an online service led by Reverend Kendra Ford `93, of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Exeter, encouraging those listening to think outside of the box and to try something new.

Building from their role in the wake of the derecho, Fendt and Hammouda came up with an educational program that would also serve free meals to those who need them. While the program is in its initial stages, Fendt and Hammouda plan to register it as a nonprofit soon.

The couple hope to eventually go beyond just providing free meals to those in need, though. Once the program becomes a nonprofit, they plan to engage students in preparing the free meals, using the opportunity to also teach them essential cooking and nutrition skills, such as how to apportion food on a plate, limit sugar intake and prepare quality inexpensive meals. Across the country, adolescents aged 12-19 years have a 20.6% prevalence of obesity.

In order to make the program more appealing to young people, the couple consulted with the Grinnell-Newburg Community Schools Superintendent, Janet Stutz, to learn about the programs already in place and how to engage with students.

The couple will be recruiting primarily those in high school, because they said they believe that high school students are the best group within which to spark change, but they are open to potentially having college students participate in the program if the interest is there. 

“I just want to, in the long term, have healthy kids grow up to be healthy citizens,” said Hammouda. 

While the educational component won’t begin until the program officially gets nonprofit status, Relish will offer free lunches to those who need it, no questions asked, Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. at 834 Park St.

“We are not sure yet of how it will all work,” said Hammouda, “but what is important to me is providing the meal.” 

The menu for the lunches is announced on Relish’s website and on their Facebook page

“We are just putting it out on social media and we are hoping that people who are food insecure are the ones who access it. And if people want to come and pick it up for people who are unable to come pick it up for themselves, then that is an option. They just have to call us and ask,” said Fendt.

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