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Pay it forward café doubles foot traffic, receives huge grant

Groundswell Café uses a pay it forward model to serve guests. (CBS2/FOX28)
Groundswell Café uses a pay it forward model to serve guests. (CBS2/FOX28)
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When CBS2 news caught up with Groundswell in early March, staff said they weren't meeting their goal of connecting with enough restaurant guests who could benefit from a free meal--those who are experiencing homelessness or financial instability.

Since then, they say the amount guests coming for free meals has roughly doubled. Staff couldn't be happier.

"It's extremely satisfying," said Groundswell director, Aaron Amundson. "It's wonderful to give people the attention that they deserve, as well as a great meal."

Serving the mission of Matthew 25, the restaurant uses a pay it forward model to serve guests from all walks of life a healthy, nutritious meal. Fresh ingredients are grown at the organization's Cultivate Hope urban farm. Customers who can pay for their meal can donate extra in the "pay it forward" jar and sponsor a meal to someone who could benefit from help.

Friday, the cafe celebrated a new partnership with Frontier Co-op as a presenting sponsor. Frontier, a member owned natural products cooperative, produces several lines of products, including the "Simply Organic" herbs and spices. The Norway-Iowa based coop presented Matthew 25 with a $30,000 grant for Groundswell and the Cultivate Hope food education program.

Alicia Simmons, sustainability manager for Frontier, said they've had a longstanding relationship with Matthew 25, but they're now taking it to the next level.

"Simply Organic is really committed to nourishing the food insecure in our communities, and what better than to help a pay it forward restaurant here in Cedar Rapids," said Simmons. "The work that they are doing is so key to our community's success."

Amundson says donations like this will go a long way.

"At the end of the month, we're not always ahead," said Amundson. "So this will help with day-to-day operations, as well as purchasing new equipment."

Groundswell Café is located at 201 3rd Ave SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

Monday: 7 AM – 2 PM

Tuesday: 7 AM – 2 PM

Wednesday: 7 AM – 2 PM

Thursday: 9 AM – 2 PM

Friday: 7 AM – 2 PM

If you would like to volunteer, visit this link.

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If you would like to make a donation to Matthew 25, you may do that here.

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