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Frequently asked questions

What exactly is a not-for-profit Benefit Company? Why did you choose this model?

While a business’ legal purpose is solely to generate profit for its owners and shareholders, a Benefit Company pursues the “Triple Bottom Line” of People, Planet and Profit. A not-for-profit Benefit Company operating as a not-for-profit cycles its profits fully back into its mission, but won’t qualify for tax exempt status and therefore doesn’t use the legal distinction of ‘nonprofit’. Benefit companies differ from traditional corporations and LLCs with regard to their purpose, accountability and transparency. The purpose is to create a general public benefit, which is defined as "a material positive impact on society and the environment, taken as a whole, from the business and operations of the company.” An Oregon Benefit Company considers its impact on society and the environment in the business decision-making process, in addition to earning a profit. This mission is legally implicated in the company’s Articles of Organization, and the company will adopt a Third-Party Standard. A "Community Cafe" is a typically volunteer-run eatery or coffee shop with donation-based options, supported by sales profits, community donations and sometimes grant funding. Versions of this idea exist across the country and around the world. You can explore some examples of nonprofit and mission-driven coffee shops here, and read an article about community cafes here. So, why did we choose this structure for the cafe? 501c3 nonprofits and fiscally sponsored entities are limited in their ability to earn profit and sometimes forced to compete for grant funding against other worthy efforts. Choosing a Public Benefit Company structure allows for consistent fundraising to support our mission through food, beverage, and merchandise sales, catering and space sharing. Since we are a not-for-profit business, but not a tax-exempt 501c3 nonprofit organization, we use the sales profit generated by the cafe and private donations to support our mission and leave grant funding to organizations with tax exemption. We feel this structure offers us the greatest opportunity to sustainably support our mission of reducing the burden of hunger and investing in local food security.

Will you be hiring staff or volunteers? What kind of support do you need besides donations?

We'll do both! We’re partnering with C.O.R.E to create a well-paid job training program for youth through the cafe, which will involve volunteer hospitality industry mentors. Here is our vision: To start, we’ll hire one job program applicant at an above-industry-standard living wage, who will work closely with vetted volunteer service-industry mentors and a case manager to build employment skills and learn the specifics of working in food service. As the cafe begins to make more money and can hire more people, employees of the job program will work in both front and back of house, and build skills including food prep and line cooking, baking, making coffee drinks, serving tables and working counter service. We want job program alumni to be strong future job applicants with a confident understanding of their rights and responsibilities as employees. After their limited employment period at the cafe, we'll work to connect employees with opportunities at quality local food, farm and hospitality jobs. We envision vetted volunteer mentors working shifts at the cafe alongside our employees, helping out, offering advice and answering any questions they might have along the way. Volunteers interested in becoming mentors will first pass a DHS background check and work introductory food prep and distribution shifts. Applicants for volunteer mentor positions should have experience working in a food establishment, be knowledgeable about our mission and excited to engage with young people to pass on advice and skills learned in the hospitality industry. While we’re really excited about this idea, its worth mentioning that mentor shifts won’t be available until after we open and can afford to hire our first job program applicant. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer mentor when we have the program established, please let us know when you sign up to volunteer. In the meantime, please share our fundraisers and help us ensure we can make this happen quickly. What else can you do to donate your time before we open? Come see us (with your mask) at our cafe location. We have flyers for you to give out and encourage you to help us spread the word by hanging them around town at message boards. Do you make art, sell a product, or have another way you might be able to do your own creative fundraising toward our goal? One of our biggest donations in 2020 came from a gracious neighbor selling one of their paintings! Can you teach a workshop, donate food or products, help translate text, offer construction or artistic skills, or help make this organization better in some other way? We want to hear from you! Fill out our online volunteer form, and we’ll contact you when we need helping hands.

Why so few FAQ?

This section is growing as we do an FAQ of the Day series answering some questions submitted on social media. Follow us on Instagram @lunchpeople for more!

Can you really run a restaurant that gives away food for free? How does that work?

Yeah, we can! This has been an idea for awhile—check out Sisters of the Road, who have been open since 1979—and there are some great examples of ideas similar to ours operating in Oregon and around the world. Ardent Coffee in Portland is a community driven, volunteer run and donation based coffee shop that turns 100% of profit over to International Justice Mission to work toward ending slavery in our lifetime. Stone Soup PDX is a non-profit foodservice training enterprise also based in Portland, providing professional development & hands-on culinary expertise to people at risk of homelessness. Food For Lane County operates the Dining Room, where “guests eat for free in an atmosphere of dignity and respect”. We combined aspects of these different ideas to create a model we think will work well for Eugene’s own community cafe: a wholesome plant-based menu with donation-based and free options, a job training employment program for youth, and an approach to addressing food security that is community driven and focused on quality and dignity. Continuing our free meal distributions through a community cafe will allow us to use the same high quality ingredients we’re already using for our menu in free meals, instead of relying on donated ingredients from various sources. We want to be better than ‘charity’—we want to bring delicious food, full of nutrients, to the people in a dignified manner. In the words of sociologist and author Dr. Eve L. Ewing, “When we enact—even briefly, even on one block—a world where everybody eats, what we are really doing is rendering the impossible possible.” As we’ve seen more popular restaurants in Eugene stepping up for the community in 2020 to organize free meals during the pandemic and wildfires, our belief that Eugene is ready for a community cafe has solidified. Please donate or share our GoFundMe and help us make this happen!