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Pay-what-you-can restaurants want everyone to afford to eat

Inside the Provision Community Restaurant, they’re hard at work not just cooking for the restaurant's customers, but also creating meals to take to a local shelter.
The effort is two-fold at Provision Community Restaurant: they are creating dishes for those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them, all while trying to cut into the 40% of food wasted in the U.S. every year. They also accept food donations from co-ops, farms and other businesses.
With its bright yellow door welcoming customers, Provision Community Restaurant may seem like your typical eatery, but the prices there are not. In fact, there aren’t prices at all.
Those behind Provision Community Restaurant said they want their pay-what-you-can cafe to help foster connections.
This month, National “Everybody Eats Week” runs from August 21-27 and will bring together pay-what-you-can restaurants across the country.
Posted at 9:21 AM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 11:15:53-04

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Bright and early in the day, the kitchen comes alive at Provision Community Restaurant.

So, what’s on the menu?

“A vegetable tofu dish with curry that's going to be served on rice,” said Kenny Beck. “[They’re] working on a fruit crisp and then making a salad as well.”

It may seem like your typical restaurant, but the prices there are not.

In fact, there aren’t prices at all.

“We are a pay what you can restaurant,” said Beck, who is executive director of the nonprofit restaurant in Minneapolis. “My background has been a lot of front of house operations within restaurants: bartending, serving, managing, really just waiting on and taking care of people.”

That work takes on a whole new meaning at Provision Community Restaurant.

“The idea of having a space like this that is just very open and welcoming,” Beck said. “You know, it's really changing the concept of like a church basement or soup kitchen.”

The effort is two-fold: they are creating dishes for those who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them, all while trying to cut into the 40% of food wasted in the U.S. every year.

“What we do is we take on donations from various co-ops, other bakeries, restaurants, food that's slated for waste,” Beck said. “With there being more food waste and people hungry, it just doesn't make sense. So, we're doing our part to kind of bridge that.”

Provision community restaurant isn’t alone.

This month, One World Everybody Eats is holding its National Everybody Eats Week from August 21-27. It will bring together pay-what-you-can restaurants and cafes across the country, from New York to Nebraska, Wisconsin to Tennessee, Florida to Ohio, and other states in between.

“Sometimes people will throw in a dollar or $2 into our barrel or we also have links for our Venmo and our website,” Beck said. “And then sometimes we have people that are, you know, dropping $10, $20, $50 or $100.”

“Everyone needs a little help now and again,” said Willie Hadley, who lives in the neighborhood and appreciates Provision’s effort in the ethnically and economically diverse community. “It’s a safe haven, somewhere to come and chill. There’s always a need for little places like this. And it’s not about the building: it’s about who’s in the building.”

Inside the building, they’re hard at work not just cooking for the restaurant, but also creating meals to take to a local shelter.

In the end, those behind Provision said they just want to create connections.

“I think during the pandemic, a lot of people were sitting at home. A lot of connections were lost,” Beck said. “And I would love to see this serve as a space for people to not only have a have a meal, but also get to reintroduce themselves to their neighbors.”

Some they believe can happen over a hearty meal that, no matter someone’s circumstances, everyone can enjoy.