Written by Jessie Palatucci
F.A.R.M. (Feed All Regardless of Means) is part of the national One World Eats movement, which is successfully helping to combat hunger in communities across the United States while supporting local farmers. F.A.R.M. Café’s mission is to build healthy, honest, inclusive community by providing high quality, delicious meals prepared with locally grown, unprocessed and fairly-traded ingredients served in a restaurant where everybody eats regardless of their ability to pay.
The idea for this Boone, North Carolina restaurant began in 2009 when three members of High Country United Church of Christ met over breakfast to discuss a magazine article about movement founder Denise Cerreta and her One World Everybody Eats Café in Salt Lake City, Utah. This business model has led to nearly 20 local start-ups around the country. Convinced that a similar restaurant was needed and could work in the High Country of North Carolina, these UCC members and other dedicated individuals formed a committed Board of Directors and started an ambitious community awareness campaign.
A series of fundraisers, including a St. Patrick’s Day dinner in March 2011 attended by more than 700 people have continued to inspire community support and raise the necessary dollars to secure a location for the restaurant. Until a permanent space is found,F.A.R.M. Café is partnering with the local homeless shelter, the Hospitality House, to host monthly dinners that allow the community and its people to dine together and share their lives. The dinners are served by volunteers in the “pay what you can” spirit designed by Denise Cerreta and are the start of what is hoped to be a successful solution to hunger in the High Country’s three-county area.
In addition to creating a more inclusive eatery, F.A.R.M. Café will support local farmers by buying their locally grown produce and reducing waste through composting and self-serve lines in which people tend to take only what they know they will eat. “As a minister, I long for justice and food security for all God’s children,” says Shelly Wilson, pastor of High Country UCC. “At FARM, there is room at the table of bounty for all who enter. Opportunities abound for learning, for meaningful work, and for reminders of how important nurture and nourishment are to all of us.”
According to a 2011 report issued by the Food Research and Action Council, North Carolina is the sixth worst state in the nation for food hardship. Cuts to government programs like the Emergency Food Assistance Program have forced many more people to turn to food pantries and other services to meet basic needs. Given the state of a still struggling economy, community efforts like F.A.R.M. are as important as ever. F.A.R.M. was the recipient of the Justice and Witness Ministries Grassroots Organizer Award presented during the 28th UCC General Synod last July in Tampa, FL.