WYTHEVILLE, Va. – The Wythe County Board of Supervisors recently recognized the Open Door Café and encouraged citizens to support National Everybody Eats Week.

Hope Inc. Executive Director Andy Kegley said officials across the nation are striving to raise awareness this week for those dealing with food insecurities during National Everybody Eats Week.   

Kegley said pay-what-you-can restaurants are trying to draw attention to the pay-what-you-can model and the food insecurities in our communities.

 “Almost 12 percent of our population in Wythe County meets the definition of food insecure which means they may not know where their next meal is coming from,” Kegley said.

The Open Door Café will participate in National Everybody Eats Week, a week long campaign hosted by One World Everybody Eats, which aims to build community and dignity around food.

The Open Door Café is improving lives at the local level by minimizing the number of hungry children, adults, and seniors in our community. With over 15,000 lunches served since opening in November, it is sustained by 57 percent of donors supporting the 43 percent of customers unable to pay the full price.

Over $83,000 was donated for meals in this period, with another $95,000 raised from other sources.

National Everybody Eats Week aims to unify the efforts of over 50 affiliate pay-what-you-can community cafés working to decrease hunger across the nation.

“In January, during the federal government shut down, food stamps were issued ten days early on January 20,” Kegley said. “Various people said that’s going to be a problem for families that receive food stamps because they don’t last a month. It’s hard to budget food stamps to get you through the month. In the middle of February we noticed the ratio of people paying us more than $8 a meal (which is the suggested price) versus those paying less than $8, which is a subsidized meal, had changed. Normally, it’s running 60/40 or 55/45 where 60 percent of the customers are supporting 40 percent of the customers. In the middle of February it went to 40/60 for the last two weeks.”

Kegley said it took a few moments to figure out that people had run out of food stamps during that time period.

“It took us a couple of minutes to connect the dots, and realize that people ran out of their food stamps in the middle of February,” Kegley said. “It’s the dead of winter, we were serving a free hot meal, so we were meeting our mission right there. That’s our mission, feeding those who are hungry.”

Kegley said the restaurant averages around 90 meals a day.

“What makes us different is our business model which converts customers into donors,” Kegley said. “You can eat lunch there and you can pay eight cents or eight dollars or you can buy a 100 dollars’ worth of meal tokens to support paying it forward for other people. That’s what sets us apart and makes us a really creative way to address food insecurity.”

If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Wythe County officials, please call Blake Stowers at 276-223-4522 or email Blake at [email protected]