The EAT Café
The EAT Café hosted its final restaurant service on Friday, April 19, 2019. For a full statement, click here [PDF].
The EAT (Everyone At the Table) Café was a collaboration between Drexel University, Vetri Community Partnership and the West Philadelphia community. The EAT Café provided a welcoming space where all community members could share a high quality meal regardless of income or ability to pay. As Philadelphia's first pay-what-you-can restaurant, the EAT Café relied on an intentional customer mix where some guests overpaid, while others underpaid or did not pay at all for the same meal.
The EAT Café provided families and individuals experiencing hunger with a safe space to have a healthy meal in a nurturing, supportive environment. Simultaneously, it created a space where people with resources could participate in a meaningful social experience by giving back to their community through good food and positive social contact. The space was beautifully designed, embracing of all people, and provided a venue for job training and community engagement.
Many entities collaborated to support the EAT Café. We are grateful for their partnership and guidance.
The Center for Hunger-Free Communities (the Center): Through the generous support of the Leo and Peggy Pierce Family Foundation, in 2012, the Center began the planning process to develop the EAT Café. Since that time, the Center has worked to garner community input, build partnerships, secure a location and hire staff to bring the café to fruition.
Drexel University Center for Food and Hospitality Management (CFHM): CFHM educates students in hospitality management, culinary arts, and food science. Beyond their traditional academic programs, several outreach programs promote healthy eating practices through education and community assistance, with courses that connect Drexel students with the surrounding community. Additionally, The Drexel Food Lab uses recipe and product development to solve real world issues related to health and sustainability. Under the directorship of Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, CFHM became involved with the Café in fall 2013. They provided consultation for hiring staff and assisted in overseeing all Café workers at its inception.
The Vetri Community Partnership: The Vetri Community Partnership was founded in 2008 by renowned Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri and business partner Jeff Benjamin to empower children and families through fresh food, hands-on experiences and education. After seeing the documentary A Place at the Table, featuring Dr. Mariana Chilton and the Witnesses to Hunger program, Vetri reached out to the Center in spring 2013 to learn more about its various programs. Vetri and Benjamin supported the Café by providing training for staff, consultation on restaurant design and construction, advice on menu design, and support with fundraising.
Ahold USA is the parent company for Giant Food Stores in Pennsylvania. Ahold USA and the local Giant supermarket in Wynnewood, Penn., provided support for the EAT Café through the provisioning of produce, meat and other products. This partnership aimed to reduce food waste and increase sustainability by recovering production-quality food from the supply chain.
Greensgrow is a nationally recognized leader in urban farming and is open to the public year round. Greensgrow was instrumental in the initial planning for the café, working as a consultant to help the Center to connect with community members for the focus groups and identify the location for the café. Greensgrow also helped prepare the initial business plan for the EAT Café.
People’s Emergency Center (PEC) is community organization who offers affordable housing, job training, parenting and early childhood education, financial education and planning, life skills and technology coursework. PEC seeks to change the life trajectory for the women and children who seek its services and inspire them to aspire to new heights. PEC supported the EAT Café development as the host for the Cafe’s monthly Community Advisory Committee meetings.
The Leo and Peggy Pierce Family Foundation seeks to end hunger and food insecurity in the five-county Philadelphia region and Indian River County, Florida. The Foundation makes grants to support activities that address hunger and food insecurity through direct service programs and/or advocacy efforts.
The Francis Fund was a special fund in honor of Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to Philadelphia. The Fund was used to meet concrete needs of people in the Philadelphia region and Camden who are struggling with hunger, homelessness, and poverty, in the spirit of Pope Francis’ own special compassion and concern for our poor sisters and brothers.