Monday, July 14, 2014

How Much for that Breakfast Burrito? Whatever You Want to Pay

The menu at  Downtown Growers Market
"When customers pay what they feel the food is worth, they are given the opportunity to contribute towards a world where respect, generosity, trust, equality, freedom and kindness rule." -

One of the new food stands at the Albuquerque Downtown Growers Market this year is Food Karma, a not-for-profit food service that places a high value on promoting on using local ingredients for food. The menu choices are wholesome, locally sourced and available to customers for whatever price they want to pay.

Wade McCollough,founder of Food Karma, borrowed the concept from the Australian based non-profit business Lentil as Anything, which is also the source of the quote at the beginning of this post.

Funding a non-profit
McCollough's dream was to build a permanent facility (or as he called it a brick-and-mortar restaurant) based on that concept.So he started a campaign on Kickstarter, a fundraising site for non-profits, to raise the funds needed to cover the cost of the endeavor.

"We set a goal of $50,000 to fund our restaurant start-up but fell $45,369 short of our funding goal.," said McCollough. "We were a bit ambitious, sure, but timidness never got anyone anywhere!"

So on to Plan B, which was to develop a much simpler version of the project: a mobile community-based food organization and catering operation.  The goals of the operation are still the same, only without  an actually physical facility to serve patrons. And not only that, Food Karma has become quite involved in community events. "Since the end of our Kickstarter campaign, we have been involved in many charity events like the Roadrunner Food Bank annual Souper Bowl, two events for New life Homes (a subsidised community housing program), and "Street Fair" food days," said McCollough "These events have all been supplemented by our market vending and catering program."

Wholesome food, not profits
While it is important to get some return on its investment to keep the operation going, Food Karma does not put a high priority on making a profit. (And there are likely some people who give generously). Instead, the focus is on the quality and the wholesome nature of the food.  "Food Karma takes a fresh look how we go out to eat," said McCullough. "It challenges and creates new ideas about how we source our food, supporting local growers and producers to build a stronger food system."

"Furthermore, it makes us take a fresh look at how we treat our fellow human beings, within OUR local community, and how we can improve these social connections," the organization/business says on its Web site," said the Food Karma founder.

'Shouldn't you hide the money box?'
The concept of providing wholesome food over making a profit has met some skepticism among some of  patrons of Food Karma at the Downtown Growers Market at Robinson Park. McCollough relates an anecdote about what happened on the second day of the market this season. While the Food Karma staff was busy cooking and chatting with patrons, their backs were turned to the box where patrons place whatever money they wanted to pay for a meal.

A patron came up and told McCullough, "You better move this where you can keep an eye on it, someone is going to snatch it and run away!"  McCollough  smiled, said "Ok, thanks", and returned to cooking. A few seconds later, the gentleman moved the money box to a place where the thought was more secure.  McCollough thanked him for his good intentions, but also pointed out,  "If someone feels the need to steal our box, then I guess they need the money more than we do." With his jaw dropped he replace the box and continued through the line."

And then there is the story of the first day of the Kickstarter Campaign last fall, when Food Karma hosted , Friday Pie Day, for people to pay whatever they wanted for a piece of pie. "You're going to go out of business damn quick! No one is going to pay," said a person who attended the event.  McCullough explained the concept of Food Karma,whose goal was not to actually make any money but to feed as many people as possible. "Still stuck with his negative thoughts, he shrugged and began to walk away," said Mc Then he stopped, turned and said, "I'll take a piece of pie". Here is a video of the Friday Pie Day.

Catering your event
The stand at Robinson Park is available only one day a week on Saturdays during the summer and early fall. But Food Karma is around throughout the year. Perhaps you can hire them to cater an event. "Meetings, Conferences, Parties or Community Events, we will bring our best to your table!," the promotion for the catering operation says. But  the non-profit also emphasizes its mission, even with the catering operation. "Food Karma's goal and mission is to provide healthy meals for those in our own community who may not have resources to frequent, healthy food."   Click here  for more information

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