Inside The Quad Cities “Pay-What-You-Can” Restaurant
There's a new place in the Quad Cities where you're able to not only have a good meal but leave with a good feeling as you just helped someone get a meal. Someone who may otherwise not have been able to afford one.
The Nest Cafe is a local nonprofit restaurant with a mission of providing our community with wholesome meals. This pay-what-you-can restaurant in Rock Island is more than just a place for those that are food insecure. It's a place where the community can come together and eat a wholesome organic meal.
The Nest Cafe idea came from founder Laura Mahn, and I had the chance to sit down with her to talk about the Nest Cafe'. The first thing I noticed was all of the smiles. There is a lot of passion for this project, and I wanted to find out more.
Laura Mahn started the business with family in mind.
"I had family members that dealt with food insecurities. I’ve seen the relationship of those with economic struggles also have health issues," Laura said. "I see that cycle repeating, low income typically can't afford whole food and they continue to deal with issues like diabetes and more."
The Nest Cafe idea came to Laura about ten years ago, and with research, she found a network called One World Everybody Eats. From there, she founded a board to help run the nonprofit and began doing pop-up feedings at church kitchens and schools for a couple of years. (NEST is an acronym for Nourish Everyone Sustainably Together)
How Does It Work?
Anyone can come to eat. There is a suggested donation amount ($7 for a small portion, $10 for a large). You're welcome to donate more, but you can also donate less. People can also donate their time in exchange for the meal.
The Nest Cafe is more than just a place for those that are food insecure, Laura's vision is to build a relationship with all members of the community. For example, The Nest Cafe buys local, organic products to feed its customers. Their meat comes from Great Food Graze in Cambridge, and all the produce used is purchased from local farmers.
"When people talk about local organic, they may think of hippies, but there is a big connection between processed foods and health issues," Laura said. "We want to help bring whole natural food back to people's awareness and to the tables in our community."
The Quad Cities has supported the Nest Cafe since it opened.
"We get so many donations from local gardeners we are able to prepare our meal from locally sourced produce," Laura said. Nest Cafe has also received grant funding from local foundations as well as financial contributions from the community.
I asked Laura if the Nest Cafe looked like what she envisioned years ago. She looked around the Cafe and noticed that community members varied from college professors, a pastor, someone who was homeless, someone newly released from prison, and other members of the community all enjoying a healthy meal at the same place.
"It's EXACTLY what I hoped it would be," she said.
You can learn more, support, and volunteer all through Nest Cafe's website, nestcafeqc.org.