Skip to main content

Full Circle Moments: How this Western NC Community is Addressing Food Insecurity at the Root

By Carey McLaughlin | July 18, 2022 | Community Health, Community Partners

Two women wearing aprons stand behind a glass counter and smile at each other

If you find yourself in Boone, NC, locals may recommend you stop by F.A.R.M. Café. Known for its fresh menu, cozy atmosphere and welcoming staff, this pay-what-you-can café is serving up something even greater to the local community.

F.A.R.M. (Feed All Regardless of Means) Café is a non-profit restaurant where everybody eats, regardless of means. With a goal to serve delicious food while also relieving hunger in the local area, patrons are encouraged to pay what they can, or volunteer an hour of their time in exchange for a meal. If financially able, patrons can also help their neighbors by donating more than the suggested amount for their meal and “pay it forward.”

Since opening in 2012, 175,000 meals have been served in the restaurant. Of those, up to thirty percent have been given in exchange for a meal token (prepaid by other patrons and community partners), volunteer time, or for less than the $10 suggested donation amount.

Reduce Waste. Feed People.

In 2021, more than 1.5 million North Carolina households didn’t have enough to eat, making North Carolina the 10th hungriest state in the nation.

Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted each year.

F.A.R.M.’s Café is on a mission to change this through its food recovery and redistribution program, F.A.R.M. Full Circle.

It’s a win-win for all involved. F.A.R.M. Café locally purchases 95% of its food, however the Full Circle program helps local farmers and grocers divert usable food away from the landfill and into the mouths’ of the community.

Recovery

A majority of the foods donated through the Full Circle program are used to create meals which are distributed to partner agencies serving food insecure individuals at no charge to the consumer.

The program starts by collecting imperfect fruits and vegetables, over-ordered food items and other products at risk of going to waste from local grocers, farmers, and small businesses.

One of those local donation partners is Be Natural Market.

“We donate imperfect produce that didn’t sell or items that get sent to us by mistake,” said Catherine Reczek, owner of Be Natural Market. “This program is very special to me. It makes me feel good that instead of being wasted, F.A.R.M. Café creates incredible tasting food from our donations.”

Reimagine

Each week, F.A.R.M. Café staff and local volunteers prepare, cook and package the recovered food into healthy, ready-to-eat meals.

With lots of love and planning, comforting meals like jambalaya, stuffed mushrooms and chicken & waffles are created in the F.A.R.M. Café kitchen. Any kitchen scraps or inedible produce that’s leftover is disposed in the compost, making sure no food enters the landfill.

“F.A.R.M. Cafe is a safe, community place where folks can share their challenges, their stories and practice being human all while enjoying locally sourced nutritious food,” said Renee Boughman, Executive Director at F.A.R.M. Café.

Redistribute

Prepared meals and excess produce are then donated to nonprofit organizations serving food insecure individuals in the area. Regional homeless services agency Hospitality House of Northwest NC is a longtime partner and recipient.

“We are proud to be even a small part of such an impactful program that diverts tens of thousands of pounds of perfectly edible food from our landfills,” said Todd Carter, Chief Development Director of Hospitality House of Northwest NC. “Reducing food waste while providing healthy, locally sourced food to households that live in constant state of food insecurity is the ‘circle’ that every community should strive for.”

F.A.R.M. Full Circle has diverted more than 56,000 pounds of usable foods from being wasted and has distributed 110,000 servings of produce and ready-to-eat meals to the local community at no charge.

At Blue Cross NC, we know hunger and health go hand-in-hand. That’s why we’re committed to supporting local programs, like F.A.R.M. Full Circle, to improve food security for all North Carolinians.