by Kate Strassel
Photos Courtesy of All Are Welcome
When Karen Cook was first developing her plan for All Are Welcome (AAW), a ‘pay-as-you-can’ restaurant, she was unaware that the concept of community cafes was beginning to gain momentum. “At AAW, we developed a model that treats everyone equally, regardless of the ability to donate,” said Cook, with the restaurant now four years in operation.
Community cafes have been providing disadvantaged people and families across the country with low- or no-cost meals since the early 2000s. AAW’s beginnings as a joint mission with The Church of Our Saviour, Episcopal in Middleboro, is typical of many other community cafes that have been started. Ingredients are chosen with a focus on lower fat, sugar, and sodium content—the cafe strives to offer seasonal dishes using the finest ingredients.
Serving two meals a week in Middleboro, the restaurant, unlike a soup kitchen, is a place where all are invited to enjoy a nutritious, home-cooked meal. At the end of the meal, each guest or party is given a meal order slip accompanied by an explanation of the donation process, and a volunteer form. Everyone is invited to donate as they are able—for some, this means paying just as they would in a traditional restaurant; for others, it may be a few dollars, or nothing at all. To ensure that everyone feels equal and welcome at AAW, the bottom portion of the check, the volunteer form, along with any donations are deposited in a donation box when exiting the dining room.
Operating costs are supported by AAW’s two major fundraisers: a 5.5k race, and a family fun day. The 5th annual Run for Your Lunch 5.5k took place on Sunday, January 17. Nearly one hundred participants ran or walked the North Middleboro course and enjoyed a post-race lunch of chowder and fresh bread (lunch was also open to non-participants who purchased tickets). In June, Beans and Brews Family Fun Day makes a return for its second year with carnival games, a barbeque lunch, an Equal Exchange iced-coffee station, vendor booths, and a Home Brew beer tasting and voting (the highlight of the 2015 event).
Cook is thrilled to be celebrating AAW’s fourth anniversary in March 2016. She has plans to expand the restaurant’s marketing efforts to encourage more of the public to sample the menu at the two-meals-a-week restaurant.
For more information about All Are Welcome, including many volunteer/donation opportunities and upcoming events, visit their website and Facebook page.
Lunch: Thursdays 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Breakfast: Saturdays 7:30 am – 11:00 am
All Are Welcome
64 Union Street
(inside The Church of Our Savior)
Middleboro, MA 02346
Kate Strassel is a freelance writer, editor, and a longtime advocate of local farms and seasonal eating. She is also the communications coordinator for Old Colony YMCA.