The Pueblo Food Project is taking the preliminary steps to bring the SAME Café location to Pueblo.
The nonprofit is exploring ways to raise money for the project and expects to explore those options in the coming months, Pueblo Food Project program manager Megan Moore told the Chieftain.
The Pueblo Food Project also discussed initial location ideas, although Moore declined to further disclose which locations the advisory board discussed. A fundraising plan is underway, she said.
SAME Café stands for “so all may eat.” Its founders, Brad and Libby Burky, took an unusual approach – a model based on participation. Motivated to provide everyone with access to healthy food, visitors at Café CÉANNA can use a pay-as-you-go system or volunteer their time to purchase a meal.
So All May Eat, a non-profit company that owns all SAME Café locations, gave its blessing to the Pueblo Food Project to see if a third site could be built; SAME Café’s main location is in Denver and a second one is expected to open in Toledo, Ohio next month.
The Pueblo Food Project worked with a consultant to research and develop a preliminary plan, which it presented to the So All May Eat board of directors.
The plan included research that showed the site would have support from other local organizations and the community, access to farms and gardens and willing volunteers at a strong location.
The Pueblo location would operate similarly to the SAME Café in Denver.
“It’s just a great, great model,” Moore said. “It would be great anywhere in America, but especially Pueblo.”
According to an annual impact report, SAME Café Denver served 16,946 meals and 2,308 outreach meals in 2021, and people volunteered 10,555 hours.
Of those who visited SAME Café Denver last year, 36% said they faced challenges accessing healthy food outside of the café and 75% reported being in a social minority or a barrier.
SAME Café also has a chef-to-work program where people can get on-the-job training for entry-level restaurant jobs or cooking instruction. More than 120 people received culinary training through the program last year, and seven of that group reported better job opportunities in their respective fields.
One participant in the program goes to culinary school after receiving an acceptance letter from Johnson and the University of Wales in Rhode Island.
The cook-to-work program at the Pueblo SAME Café would be free and available to anyone interested.
“My dream is that we replicate this mission in communities across the country,” said Brad Reubendale, CEO and executive director of SAME Café Denver. “Hopefully Pueblo will be our third location … it would have ready access to people with means and without means, and everyone would love and appreciate the meals we make.”
In February the board of advisors for the Pueblo site — each site has its own board — was given a two-year timeline to gather the support and money to bring the site to life. If the board is on track at the tail end of the two-year time frame, an extension is likely, Reubendale said.
Pueblo Food Project is thrilled that a community cafe is being considered for the area. Their goals — to create an equitable food system — align with the model provided by SAME Café, Moore said.
“The food is delicious, nutritious and different every day,” she said. “The culture is incredible. When we visited, it was an incredible place to be and there was such a great energy. I think it would make a huge difference (in Pueblo).
Moore and other members of the Pueblo Food Project visited Denver’s SAME Café in April. Each paid for their meal but also volunteered their time, which included rolling silverware, washing dishes, preparing food and mopping floors, among other duties.
According to its website, SAME Café uses fresh, organic ingredients and is funded by donations, volunteer work and produce from guests and supporters.
The Pueblo Food Project plans to appoint a member from its board of advisors to serve as the Pueblo liaison between itself and So All May Eat.
Chief reporter Josue Perez can be reached at JHPerez@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @josuepwrites.