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Bioneers Hosting Talk on Pay-What-You-Can Restaurant Model to Combat Hunger Locally

The 2013 Central Coast Bioneers Conference will host a special discussion on Friday, Oct. 25 featuring the pay-what-you-can restaurant model to combat hunger locally.

One World Everybody Eats Foundation founder Denise Cerreta will travel to San Luis Obispo from New Mexico to speak about the innovative pay-what-you-can “community café” model she developed 10 years ago in an effort to alleviate hunger at the local level. There are now 60 community cafés and restaurants all across the nation.

“One in six Americans — over 50 million people nationwide — are food insecure, meaning they have limited or uncertain access to adequate, healthy food,” Cerreta says, and her organization helps feed people in a unique and original way.

The Central Coast Bioneers want to start a similar restaurant network locally to help the 44,000 people in San Luis Obispo County who go hungry every day.

Those who wish to join the conversation are invited to the 2013 Central Coast Bioneers Conference Oct. 25-27 at the Monday Club in San Luis Obispo. This annual conference, hosted by the Central Coast Bioneers in partnership with Ecologistics Inc., is all about building strong, resilient communities through revolutionary leadership.

The pay-what-you-can model is simple: People can pay what they feel they can afford for a meal, meaning that most will pay more than the menu price, and others can pay what they can afford, which in many cases is much less than the menu price. One local restaurant has already stepped up to the challenge. Bliss Café on Higuera Street has committed to becoming the first community café in San Luis Obispo. Ecologists Inc. CEO Stacey Hunt is challenging other restaurants to follow suit.

“Denise tells us that you don’t have to offer a pay-what-you-can meal across your entire menu, or even every day,” Hunt said. “If we could get 30 local restaurants to each take one day a month, there would always be somewhere for the food insecure to get a meal.”

Cerreta created this pioneering restaurant model in 2003 when she decided to address hunger head-on by allowing customers to choose their own portions and at what price they were willing to pay. She has since gained global attention for serving healthy, seasonal meals within anyone’s reach.

In 2006, she formed OWEE, a nonprofit organization to help others open community cafes worldwide. Today there are 60 community cafes either operating or in the planning stages. Most recently, in March, all 48 Panera Bread stores in St. Louis, Mo., adopted a pay-what-you-can turkey chili entrée, which the company dubs “The Meal of Shared Responsibility.”

Cerreta grew up in Canton, Ohio, and credits her childhood involvement in youth development organization 4-H with forming her love of agriculture and the farming community. She currently lives in Santa Fe, N.M., and is writing a book about taking one’s passion to the next level.

“We are excited to have Denise tell her story of this leap she made to create a worldwide movement,” Hunt says. “She will tell us how to take this inspiration to action on the Central Coast.”

Cerreta’s presentation will be an onstage interview facilitated by local radio personality Guy Rathbun. She will also make a presentation Thursday, Oct. 24 at the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce’s monthly meeting Good Morning SLO.

The 2013 Central Coast Bioneers Conference also features talks by other social and scientific visionaries who are creating innovating solutions for healing our world. Over three days, there will be 45 speakers covering a variety of topics, as well as field trips, a Green Marketplace, a Repair Café sponsored by iFixit, a Green Chef cook-off, music, a conference bookstore sponsored by Volumes of Pleasure, and organic food prepared by Linnaea’s Café.

Conference tickets are on sale by clicking here. Tickets to the film screening will be sold at the door.

— Stacey Hunt is CEO of Ecologists Inc. and represents Central Coast Bioneers.


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