UPDATE: The Non-Profit Restaurant concept is currently on hold, while we focus on other activities. Please visit www.FoodAtFirst.com to see all of the exciting stuff happening in Ames!
What’s a Non-Profit Restaurant?
Sometimes called a Community Kitchen, it’s a new paradigm for feeding those in our community who are struggling. It combines a “soup kitchen” (like ours, Food At First) with a traditional restaurant – it looks like a restaurant, but has some significant differences:
- Instead of each item having a price, customers are encouraged to make a donation when they leave. They pay what they can – some will contribute the same amount that they’d expect to pay in other restaurants, while others will pay little or nothing.
- The menu would be different each day, depending on the food that has been gleaned from area grocery stores.
- It would be attractive to customers who want to…
- contribute to a good cause (and enjoy a good meal) while not paying any more than they would at another restaurant
- eat food that has been “recycled”, having a positive impact on the environment
- experience a more communal setting than a typical restaurant
- Most importantly, it eliminates the “us vs. them” divide – instead of “donors” and “recipients” of a free meal, it’s all of us gathering together to enjoy good food, and contributing what we can.
We know that one of the greatest barriers to attending free meal programs is embarrassment. Also, people don’t want to “accept a handout”, typically assuming that there is someone else who needs it more. This type of venue eliminates those barriers.
Is this the first of its kind?
There are examples of this concept around the country. “One World Everybody Eats” has received some good press coverage, and I heard that there is a non-profit restaurant in Des Moines, but I haven’t been able to find anything via a web search. Even traditional restaurants are experimenting with the benefits of pay-as-you-wish – check out this article on Panera’s restaurant in St. Louis.
What makes ours unique is the use of gleaned food – as of now, I have not found a single restaurant that actually takes recycled food and serves it. If you find one, PLEASE let us know!
Would it be in the same location where the free meals are currently served?
The venue would need to be in a commercial location, and would be an attractive and comfortable environment. It would be just another alternative, when people are thinking about where to go out to eat – in this case, potentially tax-deductible. (We’re checking on that.)
If we were to create a non-profit restaurant, it would probably replace the current Food At First “free meal program”. It will take some time to put together, and a SIGNIFICANT amount of up-front capital, but the hope is that it would become self-sustaining after a period of time – especially since our food costs and labor costs would be extremely low!
If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to this blog so that you hear about updates as they occur! (at the top of the column to the right) It’s going to take a MASSIVE effort to pull this off, and it will have a MASSIVE impact on the hungry throughout our community, and hopefully, throughout the country as we replicate the idea in city after city! (Yep, we’re big thinkers!)
Questions/comments? Please email scott@FoodAtFirst.com or dial 515-344-HELP.