The Best of Both Worlds: Eat and Give Back



We all eat. We need the nutrition to survive. Plus, eating can be both an enjoyable and social experience. According to a study done by the Economic Research Service and the National Cancer Institute, Americans age 15 or older spend a total of approximately 2.5 hours eating or drinking on an average day. Of the time that we spend eating or drinking, more than half is spent while doing something else like watching television, working, driving, cleaning or getting dressed, among other activities. Although eating while engaged in another activity is often perceived as bad for your health, there is nothing better than multitasking by eating while giving back to the community.

Restaurants and cafes across the nation are increasingly being established with a philanthropic mindset: to provide good food and to make a positive impact on the community. So if you want to dine with purpose, give these socially minded eateries a try.

Curt’s Café (Evanston, IL)

Curt’s Café seeks to serve its customers delicious pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads alongside locally roasted coffee and espresso drinks. But beyond providing good food and a comfortable space to sit, Curt’s provides training in food service and life skills for at-risk youth in Evanston. The student-trainees employed at Curt’s range in age from 15 to 22 and have all either already had contact with the judicial system or are headed down that path. So, at Curt’s, not only do student-trainees receive valuable, employable skills but also are tutored in a variety of subjects and are mentored by food service professionals and caring adults to help these youth build a positive future for themselves. 

Generoasta Coffee and Café (Warrendale, PA)

Generoasta Coffee was inspired by its founders desire to share their passion to “Do Good, Have Fun, and Drink Coffee.” Co-owner and former Pittsburgh Steeler Eric Ravotti desires to bring the local community into the business’s philanthropic purpose. After each purchase, customers receive tokens, which they are invited to place into one of three coffee cup “banks” that each represent a different charity. The three selected charities are open to customer “votes” for six months and then are replaced by three different charities. Generoasta then donates a portion of its revenue to the selected charities, determining the amount from a formula which considers the customer’s choice. Customers can also recommend future charities on the café’s website.

Delancey Street Restaurant (San Francisco, CA)

Delancey Street Restaurant is a training school and enterprise of the Delancey Street Foundation, a self-help residential organization for people who have hit rock bottom and want to rebuild their lives. The restaurant acts as a way for residents at Delancey Street to learn personal skills and basic work habits in addition to being a vocational school. For example, residents can work their way up from dishwasher to prep cook to line cook to managing chef. The money earned through the restaurant supports the foundation’s operation. All tips are considered donations and all restaurants proceeds (after accounting for food costs) go directly to maintaining resident living quarters, feeding and clothing residents and teaching them the skills, values and attitudes needed to integrate back into life in mainstream society.

Hot Bread Kitchen (New York, NY)

Founded by Jessamyn Rodriguez in 2007, Hot Bread Kitchen aims to build “lasting economic security for low-income, immigrant and minority individuals by creating pathways to professional opportunities in the culinary industry.” The Hot Bread Kitchen Bakers in Training program teaches the business of bread making. The six-month long program provides its students with paid, on-the-job training in artisan bread baking while producing the breads sold by Hot Bread. Graduates from the program have been placed in full-time jobs with access to benefits and are earning, on average, 70 percent more than they did before the training.


Michelle Bao is a student journalist at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She is passionate about learning new languages, traveling and telling stories about people who are changing the world. Follow her @MichelleBao27.

Coffee cup photo via Shutterstock

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