If you’re going out to eat, it’s a good idea to find a restaurant dedicated to helping a great cause. From pay-what-you-can cafes to those providing job training, there are many places to dine that give back to local communities. In no particular order, here are several delicious restaurants that also embrace philanthropy.
First up, at #1, we have The Mustard Seed Cafe, a faith-based, pay-what-you-can eatery in El Paso, Texas. This non-profit organization’s mission is to serve warm meals to those in need. There are no set menus, prices, or requirements for guests.
Restaurant patrons may volunteer their time in exchange for a meal, or may pay whatever they are able to based on a suggested price. The Mustard Seed Cafe has its own garden that provides fresh produce for the cafe year-round.
At #2 is the No Limits Cafe, a lunch cafe in Red Bank, New Jersey that trains and employs adults with intellectual disabilities. The nonprofit’s mission is to empower people by providing jobs and job training, helping employees lead fulfilling lives while promoting awareness of their potentials.
While many employees with intellectual disabilities are paid below minimum wage in the United States, No Limits Cafe makes a point to pay all employees at, or above, minimum wage. In addition, the organization partners with other restaurants to place its workshop trainees.
Next up at #3 is F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone, North Carolina. This non-profit, pay-what-you-can restaurant aims to relieve hunger in the local area while working to strengthen the community. Patrons help their neighbors by paying more than the suggested donation, or by volunteering alongside other community members.
F.A.R.M. Cafe collects imperfect fruits and vegetables, over-ordered items, and other foods at risk of going to waste from local grocers, farmers, and small businesses. From this, volunteers prepare meal kits and distribute them to organizations serving food-insecure individuals. This non-profit organization received the 2017 Boone Chamber of Commerce everGREEN Award for Leadership in Sustainability.
Next, at #4, we have Curt’s Cafe, which has locations in Evanston and Highland Park, Illinois. This restaurant employs at-risk student-trainees from ages fifteen through twenty-four, many of whom were formerly incarcerated, in order to help them build positive futures. This workforce training program offers life skills support, a workforce development curriculum, and experiential opportunities.
Customers can order freshly brewed coffee, homemade pastries, and other items sourced from local ingredients and vendors. From 2012 through 2020, only 3% of Curt’s Cafe’s students had returned to prison, as opposed to state and national rates which were both above 80%.
Finally, coming in at #5 is Cafe Momentum. A restaurant and culinary training facility, it equips the community’s most at-risk youth with life skills, education, and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potentials. Cafe Momentum serves fresh, locally-sourced, new American cuisine in the heart of Downtown Dallas.
The nonprofit provides a paid, post-release internship program for young folks coming out of juvenile facilities. Interns rotate through all aspects of the restaurant, focusing on life and social skills, coaching, and development. Those who graduate from the program are placed in a job with one of many community partners.
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