Itasca Area Community Response Grant Helps Community Café Keep Delivering Meals During Pandemic


In a normal month, the Community Café serves 1500+ meals, to those in need, at the Grand Rapids location and 1000+ meals at the Deer River location.  They have a partnership with Arrowhead Transit who brings people to Community Café locations to get nutritious, home-cooked meals.  That all had to change during the pandemic. No one could come to the meal sites and volunteers were hard to find.  In order to keep people safe, they had to re-design their method of meal delivery.


First, it was decided that instead of Arrowhead Transit picking people up, they would have Arrowhead Transit deliver the meals to peoples’ homes or other meeting locations.  Second, they would have to buy to-go boxes so that the meals could be individually packaged for delivery.   Third, they added an extra day of delivering meals in their Grand Rapids location to meet the increased need. Further, Community Café was unable to have their annual fundraiser, Empty Bowls, in 2020 due to the pandemic, which is their largest fundraiser where they usually raise $25,000-30,000.  Due to the shortage of funds and extra expenses, Community Café applied for a grant through the Itasca Community Response Fund, a fund created in the Spring of 2020 in anticipation of nonprofit organization needs that would likely arise due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects. This Community Response Fund was made possible by the generosity of individuals and major givers. The Community Café was awarded $10,000 to help continue operating at an increased capacity, as was necessary, to meet the nutritional needs of community members, as well as support safe operations through curbside pickup and delivery options.


The altered method of meal delivery had to be in place for an entire year.  John Weber, Community Café Executive Director, says that their partner, Arrowhead Transit, “was phenomenal” through that year.  Arrowhead would get the calls from people who needed meals and would relay that information to the Community Café.  Arrowhead would then deliver the meals, at no cost, to community members. “We really have a wonderful partnership with Arrowhead Transit,” says John Weber.


The Community Café is back to normal operations and thankful for the grant monies received and everyone who helped during the last year.  They are also excited to be hosting their 2021 Empty Bowls event on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, at the Timberlake. Mark your calendars! The Community Café remains dedicated to reducing hunger and building a stronger community.  If you are in need of meals, or know someone else in need of meals, you can visit their website You can also donate to the Community Café Endowment Fund through the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation at


PHOTO:  John Weber, Community Café, and Brianna Spry, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation