There is always something good cooking in the kitchen at One Acre Café, Johnson City’s community restaurant where everyone enjoys a meal and no one leaves hungry.
One Acre Café is a non-profit community café of shared responsibility to help ensure that everyone who needs a meal gets one, and to raise the level of awareness about food insecurity in this country. The name of the café came from a discussion on how you could feed a lot of people with one acre of land. Now, imagine walking into a restaurant where the greeting is warm, the atmosphere is inviting, and the food is hearty and delicious. This is One Acre Café, where members of the community gather to eat and offer high praise for the food and the friendly volunteers who serve them.
One Acre follows the four basic concepts of a foundation called One World Everybody Eats: to serve healthy nutritious food; to buy locally when possible; to provide portion options; and to offer a “pay as you can” program. The café opened its doors in December 2013 and has averaged 81 meals served per day and 30,916 total meals served. In its first year, seventy meals were provided each Friday for the Carver Recreation Center’s After-School Kids Café, and cooking classes were given to underprivileged children and their families. A pool of more than 600 volunteers donated over 10,000 hours of service and One Acre’s first co-op student completed a job training program that has trained her to be a Sous Chef.
Is there a secret recipe for the success of One Acre Café? “When people come together for a noble purpose, great things can happen,” explains Jan Orchard, Executive Director. “Our volunteers come from all walks of life, yet we are all there for one purpose; to work as a team and serve our customers.” Volunteer workers are not all that’s needed; donations of food and other items are always welcome. Community churches and local gardens share excess produce with the café and in turn, the café’ gives any surplus food to local food banks and places that feed the hungry.
One Acre Café is lifting up the community, meal by meal, person by person, one day at a time. A few examples of how this community of people is making a difference:
- Many students from ETSU come to eat and then work an hour to pay for their meal. Some of the older volunteers talk to them about school, their lives and plans for the future. It’s like having a whole group of extra grandparents who really care about them.
- One large family comes in for lunch and then returns after closing to assist with cleaning the café. The mother of this family has a degree in social work and offers her support to a woman who has been living in her car.
- An elderly man who lost his wife comes in every day and folds the napkins around the silverware. He is a member of the café team and is now encouraging other seniors.
Special events, fundraisers and donations keep the café in operation. Business luncheons, Christmas parties and wedding rehearsal dinners – every event brings awareness to the community and helps to further its mission. When an event is held at the café and an additional donation is made, you are helping to feed the hungry while getting a tax deduction.
Job training will continue to be a major focus in 2015-2016. One Acre launched a co-op training program in 2014 and graduated its first student who now serves as the café’s chef, preparing meals while training and mentoring volunteers of all ages who assist in the kitchen, helping to grow their life skills. Thanks to the community’s generosity, the next co-op program is now fully funded and applicants will be accepted this fall.
One Acre Café is a community resource and the support of the community keeps it thriving. Stop by for lunch and enjoy a wonderful meal. You can “pay it forward” by sharing a one-time gift or becoming a regular monthly donor. Volunteer opportunities are also available. To make a donation or to learn more, contact Michelle Watts at 423.483.0517 or visit www.oneacrecafe.org.
One Acre Café
603 West Walnut St.
Johnson City, TN, 37604
Phone: (423) 483-0517
–Story by Pam Blair and photos courtesy of One Acre Café