Pay-As-You-Can Restaurant Opens in El Paso, TX

January 10, 2014 at 10:55 pm EST

Customers can find lots of healthy, locally grown food on the menu of Soul Kitchen in Red Bank, N.J. – the kind of food that some white tablecloth restaurants serve. But they won’t find those kind of prices. In fact, Soul Kitchen menus don’t have any prices at all.

It’s a theme that’s catching on elsewhere, including El Paso, Texas, where a group of friends have opened The Mustard Seed Community Cafe.

Soul Kitchen is a community restaurant funded by Jon Bon Jovi and his foundation to help feed the hungry and build community ties. Here’s how it works: Customers pay the minimum donation ($10) or volunteer in some way to earn a voucher for a meal.

The Panera Bread Company has similar endeavors in target markets including Clayton, Mo.; Dearborn, Mich.; Portland, Ore.; Chicago, Ill.; and Boston, Mass. These nonprofit cafes provide meals for a donation and roughly 60 percent of the customers pay either the suggested retail price or donate a little more to help cover the cost to provide food to those in need.

During lunchtime a few days a week, The Mustard Seed's customers are invited to pay what they can afford for meals. The restaurant asks customers to pay $10, but if they can’t afford that amount, they are asked to pay $4 or $5 or some portion of it. Those who can’t pay anything are asked to volunteer in the cafe for an hour. Donations beyond the cost of food are used to help provide food for the hungry.

The Mustard Seed meals are prepared by chef Roman Wilcox and the cafe was founded by Christi Brown, Patsy Burdick and Shelley Speicher.

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