The idea of starting a “pay-what-you-can” food truck came to me after a visit to the F.A.R.M. Cafe in Boone, North Carolina. A group of citizens concerned with the unmet hunger in their community partnered with a local church to open F.A.R.M. Cafe in downtown Boone where everyone would eat regardless of their means. It is staffed largely by volunteers and serves as much local food as possible. The food is good, so lots of paying customers frequent the business beyond those seeking the free meal and others donate to support the mission to end hunger.

After more research, I discovered that there is a growing network of pay-what-you-can eateries across the United States. One World Everybody Eats is a foundation that offers support to individuals seeking to apply this business model to address hunger in their communities. They offer a manual sharing the lessons learned and best practices for those starting a new cafe. In the last ten years, more than 50 pay-what-you-can cafes have opened and 20 more are in the development stages.

The more I learn, the more I am convinced that this model can work in Charlotte, North Carolina. The citizens are very generous financially and with volunteer time. There is also a growing appreciation for locally sourced food and an expanding food truck scene. Unfortunately, the need in Charlotte is great. The local nonprofit infrastructure is not able to fully meet the needs of the hungry, so there is capacity for another service that addresses this need in a new way and a food truck would provide a flexible service that could partner with existing organizations that address hunger to fill in gaps.

In the weeks to come, I look forward to sharing what I learn about the hospitality industry, the food truck business, social entrepreneurship, and running a nonprofit organization. I plan to interview current food truck owners that have offered to share their expertise and experiences with me as I embark on this journey. I appreciate your interest!

2 thoughts on “Pay-What-You-Can

  1. What an amazingly kind idea! Using sustainable resources and local goods will not only help to feed those in need but also help to support the local economy. I have often found that when there is a pay-what-you can policy, most individuals are extremely generous and concerned about the wellbeing of their fellow man. Individuals tend to respond more in this type of charity then when asked outright to make a donation.
    Great piece!


  2. This really is an amazing idea that can bring good to a lot of people. I am a huge fan of food trucks and would absolutely support something like this. As you mentioned, I think as long as the food is good, you will attract people from all social and economical backgrounds. I am sure that you are aware of them but I think a very valuable resource for you would be to talk with the owner of Kings Kitchen on College St. The operate in a similar manner to your proposal and they really bring good to the Uptown homeless community.


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