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New Lancaster Avenue café aims to feed Everyone At the Table with pay-what-you-can pricing

April 22, 2016

EatCafeAbout 40 percent of food in the United States is never eaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. It’s tough to point fingers when there is no one to blame. We’ve all bought meat or produce that has gone bad before we have gotten around to preparing it. The EAT (Everyone At the Table) Café, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Center for Hunger-free Communities at Drexel University, aims to approach food resources a little differently to reduce waste and make access to healthy food more affordable with a pay-what-you-can price structure.

Donnell Jones-Craven, EAT Café’s general manager, stresses that the Café is not a soup kitchen, as there will be seating and table service. “We’re like Sabrina’s or Honey’s; we suggest that price. We believe that 80 percent of our customer base will pay the suggested amount or more; it will help the 20 percent that cannot pay the full suggested price… We just want to make sure people will do their very best, because we want to stay viable, open and serving our community as large.” 

ChefDonnell

Chef Donnell chats with community members during the monthly meal event at the Dornsife Center (EAT Cafe Instagram photo).

“We want to be a place in Philadelphia where people can get an exceptional meal in quality and service,” says Jones-Craven who recently relocated to the area with his wife and children. “One of the things that attracted me to the café was the community and social engagement. I’ve always been involved with neighborhood, community and church/ministry activities. This seemed like a great combination of everything I was involved with.”

Jones-Craven has always been involved with soup kitchens and shelters such as the Berkeley Emergency Food Project, which makes him an obvious choice for this project. Being a chef helps him plan healthy menus and his passion for people and community helps him procure local resources that can better serve customers. The Café has racked up an impressive list of partners such as La Colombe for coffee, Metropolitan Bakery for bread, and the Giant grocery store in Wynnwood with the help of Vetri Community Partnership.

Instead of enforcing the typical restaurant practice of FIFO (First In First Out), Jones-Craven will be using his judgement to decide which foods need to be prepared the quickest. He has implemented a system to prepare these foods within a 48-hour period of receiving them, if needed. So excess foodstuffs that might otherwise be thrown out, will now be re-purposed to feed individuals who can’t afford to go out to eat.

Future projects include an herb garden with vegetable and herb gardening workshops in addition to a rotating art display for local artists and performance nights for local musicians and DJs.

The EAT Café plans to open its doors to the public at 3820 Lancaster Avenue by June 2016. It is currently hiring cooks, servers, and utility and prep workers. Menu offerings will be updated according to resource availability. More information is available at: www.eatcafe.org.

Rana Fayez

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