Promoting reading, healthy eating


The Antelope Lending Library Bookmobile travels across Iowa City in different areas to promote literacy. Now, the program is trying to encourage healthier eating in conjunction with Table to Table.

By Hannah Adamson

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collaborating with nonprofits Table to Table for the first time, and continuing to work with the Iowa Youth Writing Project, the Antelope Lending Library now offers healthy food to those who use the Bookmobile at two of the stops.

Bridget Fonseca, the community outreach intern for the Youth Writing Project, came up with the idea to bring food to families she worked with through the program and the lending library while also working at Morning Glory Farms near Mount Vernon last summer.

“Why not connect all these dots?” Fonseca said. “That’s the stuff that I love to do. It was fun for me.”

With only two Table to Table volunteers helping her sort food, Fonseca fits as many coolers full of produce into her car as she can, then drives to the Bookmobile’s stop at Cole’s Mobile Home Court to deliver the food.

The Antelope Lending Library is an independent mobile Bookmobile that has traveled to different areas of Iowa City since 2013. Cassi Elton created the Antelope Lending Library four years ago to promote literacy in the area. Now, the program also encourages healthier eating.

In an effort to provide more food to children at the Bookmobile, a team of Youth Writing Project volunteers now carries on the work that Fonseca started at two locations — both of which are bilingual stops for the lending library.

Depending on the day, the volunteers pick up the food around 8 a.m. at one of two Hy-Vee locations, and then deliver it around 10 a.m. either to the Cole’s Mobile Home Court stop or a new stop at the Forest View Mobile Home Court.

The idea behind setting up another location for food deliveries was so that children who receive free or reduced lunch during the school year could also receive a nutritious meal in the summer at least once a week.

“With a little more collaboration, more programs like these can exist,” Fonseca said.

The volunteers can speak both English and Spanish, and along with bringing the food, they provide such services as a story-time hour and individual reading sessions for children.

“They have so much fun interacting with the kids,” said Lisa Roberts, the development officer and community advisory council head for the Youth Writing Project. “We’re really grateful to everyone who’s involved in it.”

Roberts said she believes the stop at the Forest View will be a great addition for the bilingual services the program can offer.

At every stop, the Bookmobile offers a comfortable and safe environment for children and their parents.

Aimee Kaefring-Elliott, a new regular at the Antelope Lending Library along with her nephew and niece, said she cannot begin to express how grateful she is for the services the library provides.

“Reading is a lost pastime, I feel, for kids and adults,” she said. “It’s really convenient and really necessary for kids to get out of the house.”

As a member of a mobile-home community, Kaefring-Elliott said she appreciates how the Bookmobile provides a traditional library atmosphere for readers of all ages.

“You just don’t even realize you’re on a vehicle,” she said.

In addition to grants, Antelope also runs on donations from members of the Iowa City community. However, because the majority of its funding comes from grants, sometimes the program struggles with finding a more permanent funding.

“They’re bringing this amazing resource to the mobile-home community,” Roberts said. “They’re social activists for literacy and at great personal cost.”

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