By Samantha Facciolo
Across the country, a growing number of restaurants, cafes and coffee shops are offering up something a little different with their lunches and lattes: the chance to help communities in need. Small businesses, as well as larger chains like Panera Bread, are using their platform of hospitality to help combat homelessness, unemployment, hunger, youth recidivism, illiteracy and more. Consider checking out one of the following establishments, and know you’ll be served up a side of social good with your meal.
The King’s Kitchen
The King’s Kitchen in Charlotte, N.C., opened in 2010 as a nonprofit restaurant and bakery. In between cooking up meals and pastries with a blended French-Southern flavor, it donates 100 percent of its profits to feeding the poor. In addition, it partners with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Dream Center to provide skills training to impoverished and unemployed people.
Haley House Bakery & Cafe
This Boston cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is part of Haley House, a larger organization focused on community building, job skills training and youth empowerment. The cafe provides employment opportunities, cooking classes and cultural programs for youth, families and formerly incarcerated men and women looking to rebuild their lives.
Café Momentum in Dallas offers patrons American cuisine while mentoring and coaching juvenile offenders and at-risk teens in basic life and culinary skills. Interns participate in a paid five-part program that prepares them for kitchen employment and offers help in housing, education, legal issues and more.
South Whidbey Commons
South Whidbey Commons is a combination coffee shop and bookstore located on beautiful Whidbey Island in Washington state. In addition to brewing lattes and scooping ice cream, the center partners with the South Whidbey School District to offer internships to middle and high school students. The Commons provides students job training and customer service skills as well as tutoring and homework help.
Denver’s Same Café is a nonprofit with a unique approach to the restaurant industry. Its menu changes daily and uses locally sourced ingredients. Rather than charging customers for their meals, it offers a payment box where diners can pay what they’re able. Its mission is to provide healthy food to everyone. It also offers special events like charity runs and golf tournaments and fundraising dinners featuring seasonal cuisine.
Dirt Coffee, also in Denver, is a food truck coffee bar that employs young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. It keeps an online calendar of where customers can find the truck, makes regular stops at local schools and community events and provides full-service coffee and tea to the Denver community.
More Than Words
More Than Words is a bookstore/coffee bar/book website with locations in Boston and Waltham, Mass., that supports youth who are in foster care or homeless. The program has a two-pronged approach: The first is dedicated to hands-on work in the bookstore and coffee shop, and the second focuses on life skills, education and the development of a post-graduate life plan. Students work 20 hours per week in the coffee shop and bookstore and participate in leadership trainings, mentoring programs and more.
Panera Cares Café
Launched by the Panera Bread Foundation in 2010, these cafes operate in several U.S. communities, including in Missouri, Oregon, Massachusetts and Michigan. These restaurants offer a pay-as-you-can model for meals and beverages. Customers who cannot pay for their food can volunteer in the cafe in exchange for meals. The goal is to provide food to those in need, build awareness of the problems of hunger and develop a sense of community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha Facciolo is pursuing an M.F.A. in fiction at Emerson College. She teaches in the college’s high school outreach program, emersonWRITES, and is an editorial assistant at Redivider. She has traveled and worked in parts of South America, Europe and the Middle East and loves experiencing different cultures and areas of the world. Follow her @seesamwrite.
Photo of brunch by Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com