From Queersgiving to Friendsgiving, 8 free Thanksgiving meals around Iowa

By Amie Rivers

November 14, 2023

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for a meal at home with family. But if you want to break bread with your community, plenty of places in Iowa offer that, too.

So if you’re looking for a free community meal, courtesy of the kindness of your fellow Iowans, here are eight around Iowa coming up.

A quick note: We have not included the MANY Iowa churches that host free Thanksgiving meals, nor are we including potlucks or paid meals (this list would be unwieldy if we tried). If you’re not seeing a free meal near you, check this list for your nearest food pantry.

Central Iowa

Des Moines – Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner

When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23

Where: Chuck’s Restaurant, 3610 Sixth Ave., Des Moines

A tradition going back at least three decades, the Parks Community Thanksgiving Dinner will provide free meals to folks on a first-come, first-serve basis. More information here.

Des Moines – Winter Warmth Event

When: 1-6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23

Where: Fred Maytag Scout Center, 6123 Scout Trail, Des Moines

The fourth-annual event—which gives out a free hot meal from Hot Tamale Catering AND free winter gear from Clothing the Children—is hosted by Do Good Des Moines. More information here.

Eastern Iowa

Cedar Falls – Queersgiving

When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16

Where: Cedar Valley Unitarian Universalists, 3912 Cedar Heights Dr., Cedar Falls

Hosted by the Cedar Valley LGBTQ+ Coalition and CVUU, the gathering will include a warm meal and fun activities. More information here, and folks are asked to RSVP here.

Cedar Falls – Friendsgiving

When: Thursday, Nov. 23, beginning at noon

Where: Mary Lou’s Bar and Grill, 2719 Center St., Cedar Falls

Mary Lou’s hosts an annual Friendsgiving and provides the feast (drinks available for purchase), along with an open pool table and other games. More information here.

Waterloo – Mike and Leona Adams Thanksgiving Dinner

When: 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20

Where: UAW Local 838 Union Hall, 2615 Washington St., Waterloo

The 42nd annual event sponsored by Veridian Credit Union has already closed its meal pickup for this year, but extra meals may be available starting at 7 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis. All meals are curbside pick-up only and include turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, dinner roll and a slice of pumpkin pie. More information here.

Waterloo – Thanksgiving Community Meal

When: Wednesday, Nov. 22, from 4 p.m. until the food is gone.

Where: Flip’s, 921 Broadway St., Waterloo

Hosted by Cedar Valley Thrift and Outreach Outlet and Flip’s, the menu features turkey, ham, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, greens, sweet potatoes, gravy, dressing, corn, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce and a drink. It is dine-in, carryout and delivery by request for those who are unable to get there. More information here.

Western Iowa

Atlantic – Free Atlantic Community Thanksgiving

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23

Where: Cass County Iowa State University Extension

It’s the second-annual Community Thanksgiving presented by Holaday Baking Company. More information here.

Fonda – Thanksgiving Dinner

When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 23

Where: Hwy 7 Cafe, 815 Queen St., Fonda

The annual Thanksgiving meal will be take-out only, and those who can are asked to make a free-will donation to cover costs. The meal will include turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, salad and a dinner roll. More information here.


  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.


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