Helping Our Struggling Neighbors

Regarding the Hope Cafe

The Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale has always tried to take an innovative approach towards fulfilling its mission of eliminating hunger in our community. Most recently, the Center explored the possibility of launching a pay-what-you-can café called the “Hope Café,” as another way of feeding local residents.

After much deliberation and research, we want the community to know that we have decided not to open the Hope Café.  The board and staff have spent countless hours over the past several years determining whether managing a “pay what you can” eating establishment was feasible for the Jonnycake Center. While the idea is appealing, there are several reasons why we have decided that we cannot pursue the Café.

It has become clear that before embarking on any new initiatives, we first need to focus on increasing the quantity and improving the quality of the food we distribute through our food pantry.  Last fall we surveyed close to 160 households that came to us for a Thanksgiving basket.  We found that even with our help, four out of five of the respondents still have very low or low food security.  This means that they couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals or skipped meals altogether.  In response, we are working to increase the amount of nutritious food we are distributing.

Our visitors are also struggling with a host of other economic challenges.  We are strengthening our role as a resource hub that connects our pantry visitors to public supports like SNAP and child care assistance, financial aid, job training, and other services that can help them cross the bridge to economic security.

We also feel that the financial risk of launching an eating establishment is too great for an organization of our size.  After extensive research we have found that the most successful pay-what-you-can cafes are backed by well-endowed foundations, major donors, corporations, or churches that can provide financial help if the patrons do not generate enough revenue to cover expenses.

Our decision does not leave the community without access to free or low-cost prepared meals.  The Peace Dale Congregational Church offers Dinner Table, a free, sit down meal for local residents every Wednesday evening from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.  The Church of the Ascension hosts a free, weekly Sunday dinner from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  Welcome House of South County also provides free lunch Monday through Friday at noon.  The South Kingstown Senior Center offers seniors daily lunches for a suggested donation of $3.00.

As part of the fundraising strategy for the Hope Café, wooden coins were sold to potential future patrons as well as supporters who wanted to “pay it forward” and provide someone in need with a meal.  We would like to honor this support.

From now through October 1, 2016, coin holders can redeem their coins at our Center for a full refund or they can donate it back to us and in return we will use their coin to purchase a $10 gift card at Panera for a household that we help.  We will use the balance of any remaining funds in a manner that is to be determined but will be consistent with the spirit of the Hope Café.

We hope you understand our decision. You are welcome to direct any questions or comments to our executive director, Kate Brewster, at 789-1559 ext. 11 or via email at kbrewster@jonnycakecenter.org.

Thank you for your continued support of the Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale.