We're raising funds toward opening a unique not-for-profit café in Eugene.
We need your help! We're raising funds with our community group Lunch People to take over a commercial lease and open a not-for-profit community cafe in Eugene, Oregon. The neighborhood eatery and resource hub will encourage food producers, service industry professionals, aid groups and individuals to work together, engage in the community and address hunger. Our mission is to reduce hunger and strengthen the community by investing in food security and celebrating health. The cafe will serve a daily donation-based hot meal, feature an outdoor free community fridge and pantry, offer workshops and classes, and operate a job training program for youth. Running a not-for-profit cafe will allow for consistent fundraising to support our mission through food, beverage, and merchandise sales, catering and space rental.
The space we are raising money to rent is located at 769 Monroe St. in Eugene, adjacent to Sweet Life Patisserie. We intend to take over the lease by February 2021 and offer a new menu featuring coffee, tap drinks, and wholesome plant-based meals with an emphasis on local ingredients. The property has a full commercial kitchen, small dining room and service counter, two restrooms and a side patio. The lease is $1850 per month, and we would be responsible for paying utilities, insurance, inventory expenses and all the other costs associated with running a
small food business. Existing furniture, furnishings and equipment will be leased free for one year by the current business owner, saving us a lot of money in start-up costs if we meet our goal in time!
We’re left with with a financial need of $30,000 to get the cafe started and make sure we can cover our first year of costs. We're organizing two stages of community fundraising, starting with a GoFundMe goal of $20,000 to be transferred to the business bank account once our LLC is formed and cover filing fees, building deposit, cleaning costs, etc., plus ensure we can pay the first six months of rent and one employee’s salary. Once we're closer to opening, our second funding request of $10,000 will cover initial inventory and additional equipment needs.
To apply for the commercial lease, Lunch People is forming a two person partnership Public Benefit LLC, member-managed by our two founders. I, Corey Prunier (he/him), am Lunch People’s Chef and have lived in Eugene and cooked in local restaurants for ten years. I grew up eating free lunches every day of grade school, so I’ve been familiar with food assistance all my life. Since moving to Eugene, I’ve been in love with the produce local to the Willamette Valley. I’ve been vegan for 12 years and I don’t believe in tricking people into eating vegetables, I believe in making delicious food without compromise. My aim as Chef is to serve the same quality of food I made at Marché and Meiji, at prices families like my own can afford. Having written recipes, organized kitchen volunteers and cooked meals for seven months of Lunch People meal distributions, I’m confident I can deliver the creativity and quality diners want while working within the limitations of a small budget.
My partner Miranda McKeever is our Outreach Director and FOH Manager, and has worked in
food service in the front of house for nine years. Her experience in restaurants ranges from fast casual
to upscale dining, and she’s enjoyed multiple roles from host to bartender. In Eugene, Miranda held a bar manager position at Falling Sky Deli for over a year, then went on to serve and bartend at Izakaya Meiji, was promoted to the management team, and became Meiji's Cocktail Manager in 2020 before being furloughed. As local restaurant industry professionals, Miranda and I have developed numerous connections with local chefs and restaurant workers who lend valuable expertise to Lunch People through their volunteerism. Our growing advisory board and relationships with other local nonprofits offer us the benefits of experienced guidance
When we were both furloughed from Meiji in March, we became Lunch People and started to cook and distribute weekly free lunches at a public park, using ingredients donated by local producers and contributions from neighbors. We soon had a group of eight volunteers and by the end of October had served over 1,500 free meals. In the process we learned two hard lessons: First, operating the way we were wouldn’t be sustainable in the long run, and secondly, our community needs more.
We are fortunate to be surrounded by the agricultural bounty and abundant natural resources of the Willamette Valley, in a fertile agricultural zone where so many world-class food and beverage products are grown, harvested, foraged, and produced locally. It’s no surprise to find diners proud to eat local, in a community so committed to sustainability. Despite this, Lane County's food insecurity rate was reported at 13% by Feeding America in 2018 and is projected to reach 18% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are at higher risk than others: communities of color, recent immigrants, families with children, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately affected. Food insecurity negatively impacts physical and mental health, erodes workplace productivity and is linked to decreased learning capabilities, especially in school age children.
By opening the community cafe, we will impact hunger by improving quality food access in a dignified and easily accessible manner. A community cafe will foster cooperation between our nonprofit sector and local businesses, and provide a safe space for aid groups to coexist. We will address immediate hunger with donation-based meals and a free community fridge and pantry, and make lasting impact by offering education and support toward sourcing and preparing quality food. Please donate to our campaign and bring real, good food to the people!