In Philadelphia, one in four people are “food insecure,” which means that 25 percent of the city’s population don’t have access to a reliable, affordable food source.
While there are several programs that try to address such a problem, most of these programs are isolating in that the only people participating in the programs are those that are in need of a meal. Such programs become another form of segregation.
In order to address this issue, Drexel University, in partnership with community organizations and local businesses, has opened the EAT Cafe. EAT stands for Everyone at the Table.
The goal is to create a place where anyone can feel comfortable and welcome to enjoy a meal, no matter their ability to pay for it, and at the same time connect with people from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances. For some people, it will be a way to get a free or subsidized dinner, while at the same time having the chance to interact with a more diverse set of individuals than they normally experience.
People coming to the EAT Café will be given a menu with a suggested price. At the end of their meal, a check will be delivered and everyone can choose what they pay – the full amount, more, less or nothing at all. The hope is that those who are able to do so will pay a little more than the suggested price, effectively helping those who are unable to do so.
The cafe will offer a three-course menu that will change weekly and feature different cuisines, including Caribbean, Asian, African, Middle Eastern and regional American dishes.
Such a program would not be feasible without the support of local grocery and other food stores. The program allows these businesses that may otherwise waste some of their food to donate it to the EAT Cafe, where it will be put to good use.
The plan is to also use the cafe as a gathering space for community events and live music, with the overall goal of bringing the neighborhood together.
As Chef Donnell Jones-Craven states, “We have the opportunity to change the fabric of communities with this model of partnership, passion, and purpose.”
I like community-based programs that find creative ways to support those in the community and that bring a diverse group of people together.
I applaud Drexel (one of my alma maters) and its partners for this wonderful initiative, and wish them the best.
I can’t wait to try EAT Cafe.