Over the MLK weekend in January, when the nation focuses on social justice, community cafe operators and those interested in starting a cafe meet in a different city each year to discuss how they can more effectively address food insecurity, which affects approximately 795 million people globally and 14% of American households.
Previous One World Everybody Eats summits have been held in Austin, Tampa, Denver, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and New Brunswick, NJ, and have included keynote speakers from Feeding America, Witnesses to Hunger, LA Kitchen, Hunger Free America, the JBJ Soul Foundation, and Panera Cares, the nonprofit foundation started by Panera Bread.
The summit also includes nonprofit board and fund raising training and panel discussions, and there is ample opportunity for attendees to network and learn from one another.
Because the pay-what-you-can community cafe concept is relatively new and uncommon, people who wish to open a cafe have few resources to draw upon apart from the OWEE network. OWEE board members offer one-on-one or group mentoring and consulting to anyone interested in starting a cafe or modifying an existing restaurant to include pay-what-you-can pricing.
Additionally, the 80-page manual OWEE Guide to Starting a Community Cafe offers a clear description of how to begin. The author is OWEE Board Member Rev. Dr. Chris May, who was a founding board member of F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone, NC, has done research on the pay-what-you-can model, and teaches non-profit management at Appalachian State University.
When funds are available, OWEE offers grants to start-up and existing cafes. It has also provided kitchen equipment and reference books and materials.
community of practice
OWEE supports and fosters of community of practice for member cafe operators, staff, and volunteers, who have in common a passion for food security and community building and want to learn from each other about how to manage successful cafes. Through sharing experiences, members are able to develop professionally and personally.
OWEE manages a private Facebook discussion forum, where cafe operators interact, ask questions, and offer advice. As well, the OWEE Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages provide a virtual community in which members share ideas, photos, news, and events.
Finally, OWEE generates a quarterly email newsletter that keeps members in touch with one another and up to date on the network’s growth and progress.
body of knowledge
Over the years, OWEE has developed a set of concepts, terms, and activities that make up its professional domain. This foundation of accumulated knowledge includes the core teachings, essential competencies, skills, and research in the pay-what-you-can community cafe arena. This structured information is used by OWEE members to guide their work and practice.
OWEE maintains an online Dropbox library of resources for member cafes. The organization is building a database of operational information and statistics from across the network, which will demonstrate benefits, impact, and gaps in performance.
OWEE board members are working to form collaborative associations with like-minded national and global nonprofits and corporations that are centered on food security and with academics doing research on hunger. Moreover, partnerships have been formed and are being sought with organizations that offer support to community cafes. For example, a recent agreement with TOAST, Inc. allows member cafes to purchase a restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system at a reduced price.