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Local cafe to launch donations-only meals

Stephanie Schmieding

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100th Monkey Owner, Jill Lacefield

The owner of 100th Monkey Cafe & Books, Jill Lacefield, said the community will support the new business plan. Photo credit: Emily Teague

Peaceful vibes, delicious food and a prime location are just a few things that make 100th Monkey Cafe & Books a welcoming hangout for students and locals. The cafe is about to add one more thing to entice students: free lunch. The establishment will join 45 other cafes in America in October by becoming a pay-what-you-can, donations-only cafe.

Imagine a restaurant with only locally grown ingredients, volunteer staff positions and no set prices. It exists and will be opening its doors to all regardless of the pennies in your pocket.

Jill Lacefield, the owner of 100th Monkey Cafe & Books, opened the cafe in fall 2012 on Fifth and Ivy streets. She opened it to create a place where individuals can connect through shared ideas about how to better their lives and themselves.

Lacefield, along with other dedicated community members, have been fundraising for this experiment in generosity for the last few months.

The cafe will start with a donations-only lunchtime from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and continue to move from there, Lacefield said.

“When people have very little money or no money, what this program often does is it empowers people,” she said. “It dignifies everybody. That’s why our motto is ‘everyone has a place at the table,’ so people feel that they have a value to give.”

The term “100th monkey” also possesses significance to this project and to Lacefield, who named her establishment after the studied phenomenon of the hundredth monkey effect. The term represents the idea that when a critical mass of people start to think a certain way, that thought begins to spread rapidly from one group to the next.

“The study was popularized by a writer named Ken Keyes in the ’70s who wrote a book called ‘The 100th Monkey,'” she said. “He was basically using that idea to say that if enough of us get on board, then things really change.”

A few main objectives of this generous makeover include:

  • Addressing food insecurity by creating a safe haven for individuals that do not know when their next meal will come.
  • Confronting food waste in America. According to a study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014, 31 percent of the 430 billion pounds of available food goes uneaten. By providing a place where anyone can eat, 100th Monkey Cafe & Books hopes to do its part in reducing this number.
  • Breaking the barrier between locally grown food and people because of their financial means. 100th Monkey Cafe & Books thinks everyone deserves to enjoy delicious, locally grown food by establishing a farm-to-table connection in the community.

Lacefield confronted the issue of people potentially taking advantage of the donation system and provided an analysis of different ways that anybody can pay for meals, regardless of financial means.

“After doing research on other similar cafe’s in America, I’ve found that people don’t take advantage,” she said. “They get it. They get that it’s a good idea. For people who don’t have any money, we let them know that that’s great and what they can give is their time.”

Pay What You Can!

Inside the 100th Monkey Cafe & Books is a sign letting customers know that instead of set prices, they can pay what they can. Photo credit: Emily Teague

Customers can choose from either of the following to determine their donation:

  • Pay a suggested donation that would depict a typical price for a comparable meal.
  • Pay more than the suggested donation.
  • Pay less than the suggested donation.
  • Lend a helping hand around the restaurant in exchange for food.

Lacefield hopes that this new project will benefit the community as well as bringing people closer together, she said.

“This whole cafe is just about everyone speaking the ideas that we are carrying about ourselves and the world and discovering ways to be better humans,” Lacefield said.

Stephanie Schmieding can be reached at [email protected] or @stephbottt on Twitter.

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Local cafe to launch donations-only meals