F.A.R.M. Cafe Update and Request
NOTE: The following update is from Renee Boughman, HC-UCC Member and F.A.R.M. Cafe Executive Chef.
This is the question I get asked most in my daily walk of life. “How is the cafe doing?” So, I wanted to share with you folks at High Country United Church of Christ an update about F.A.R.M. Cafe. Since we opened in May of 2012, we’ve been able to serve over 36,000 meals with 8,400 of those going to volunteers & “those of less means” who exchanged labor for food. We’ve seen lives changed with unique stories of individuals who’ve become part of our F.A.R.M. “family!”
Because of the support of dedicated folks like you,we have been able to provide a safe place for the daily volunteer who falls in and out of homelessness; to give the Appalachian State University employee who was laid off a chance to “catch his breath” until his next employment opportunity and to feed a single mother with her three children who had no where else to go for a nutritious meal. You have made a difference in the lives of these individuals along with countless others that represent the “face of hunger” in our daily paths.
And now…we’re struggling. Just as many nonprofits in this difficult economy, we find ourselves facing tough realities. We have an amazing dedicated staff that consistently & creatively works to overcome the obstacles of not “having enough cash flow.” We have many, many volunteers like so many of you that have provided hours of service as well as donated food & goods to keep the cafe running. We have increased our meals in this last year, serving up to 20 more people a day in the summer & fall months. So what is the problem? Education.
Many people see the cafe full of diners (which we love!) and assume we must be doing great financially. In reality, we can be full but may have only 70 to 75% of the patrons providing the suggested donation. We also find ourselves consistently explaining that 95% of the food we serve is purchased. In response, like any responsible organization, we’re tweaking our system. We are changing our service options to respond to what our diners regularly choose and we are requesting a suggested donation range that is comparable to the costs that we’ve incurred as food & cost of living prices rise across the country.
We are first and foremost a “pay as you can cafe” and that is our mission. We are hoping to invite folks who are able to dig a little deeper to keep the dream of F.A.R.M. Cafe going.
Starting on January 13th, you will see a few differences if you come to dine with us! Instead of three plate sizes we’re providing two choices. You will have the option of a small plate with a suggested donation range of $5 to $7 dollars & a lunch plate with a suggested range of $8 to $10 dollars. Because we offer a different menu everyday, these costs are based on the averages of what our food costs range over an annual period.
Again, we are a “pay as you can” cafe! As long as our doors are open this will always be the case. If you get a “loaded” small or “lunch” plate (meaning you select a portion of everything offered on the buffet including drink and dessert) your suggested donation is the higher end of the scale. So, if you get a “loaded” small plate and donate $7.00 you are paying for your meal. Give more & you’re helping to feed a neighbor. Give less, your meal is being subsidized. Sometimes you may choose just a salad & soup. Obviously, that puts your donation range in the lower end of the scale. Make sense?
Our goal has always been and still is to allow the patron to be active in the food choices selected. We like for folks to know where their food is coming from and how it is prepared. We also like for individuals to understand that they are literally participating in a direct process of creating community by feeding their neighbors and providing a place for all to come together, have a nutritious meal, and share their lives. That being said, we still require funding beyond the daily donations for meals. Why?
The operating infrastructure required to keep accurate accounts payable (which is very detailed for nonprofits), the active supervision of daily changing volunteers (those that have signed up and those that are walk-ins), and the usual operations of a regular restaurant – food preparation & service! What makes F.A.R.M. Cafe appealing is the unique way it operates with direct foundational support from the community. We have always said, from the very beginning, it will Live or Die on the ability & desire of our community to keep it going.
This is why I’m also asking you, who’ve already given so very much, to consider donating to F.A.R.M. Cafe this year. Honestly, as a member of this church family that faces its own financial hurdles & is working so very hard to continue our mission of “radical inclusion, promote peace & justice while working to change our world” I hesitate to even mention F.A.R.M. Cafe’s financial needs. I do so, because in my heart, the cafe has always been an outreach extension of the values of our church body.
It is a fact that the vision of this unique approach to fighting hunger was shared originally in our faith community. It is also a fact that the majority of our original board members, volunteers, and supporters were members of this church. It is also a fact that our church still volunteers as a group ( as well as individuals) more than any other faith group in the High Country. It makes me very proud to know that HCUCC has always stepped up to help when the call went out!
Times are tough for so many of us. The economic arena in western NC is no easy place to find consistent employment. I am asking with conscious awareness of all of our obstacles if you have any means to make a donation to the annual fund of F.A.R.M. Cafe it would be most helpful. Your generosity will help make it possible for us to continue to serve subsidized, exchanged, and free meals to those in need.
You can visit our website at www.farmcafe.org & make a donation on line or you can write a check to F.A.R.M. Cafe, P.O. Box 487, Boone, NC 28607.