SAME Cafe is one of the first nonprofit restaurants to open its doors in Denver! With no set prices or a set menu, SAME Cafe operates as a donation-based restaurant. When you walk in in, you can dine on several ever-changing options for soups, salads, and a main dish. In exchange for a healthy meal, you have the option between paying a monetary donation or volunteering for half an hour. Project Helping puts on volunteer events at SAME Cafe on the first Saturday and the fourth Tuesday of the month. With only three volunteers, it is one of the most intimate volunteer events where everyone quickly gets to know everyone else.
A Cooking Lesson for Every Volunteer
I am very mediocre at cooking. I can make certain things fairly well but usually keep it simple. Volunteering at SAME Cafe was a cross between a cooking lesson and an afternoon in my grandma’s kitchen. The menu for that day included two options for salads, soups, and pizza as the main dish. SAME Cafe operates on the belief that everyone deserves healthy food regardless of economic status or ability to pay. Their mission is to create community through healthy food access.
But first, we had to make the food. They started me out slow by having me ice the sugar cookies. Admittedly, the first few weren’t great. Once I got the hang of it, I had fun doing different designs atop each cookie. Next, I tore up some fresh lettuce for the salads. A SAME Cafe patron who grew their own produce had donated the lettuce for the cafe to use in their dishes.
While I worked, I got to chat with the women who ran SAME Cafe and the two recurring volunteers. We all bonded over some of our favorite dishes to cook and our cooking disasters. Then, some of our first patrons walked in. Some paid outright for their meal, either paying the full price to cover the cost of ingredients, rent, and staff; others paid only the small amount for their meal. One person preferred to volunteer his time and quickly joined us in the food prep area to help.
After the salad was ready to go, my cooking lesson continued. Following a quick lesson on the cooking uses for fennel, they had me slice up fennel stalks for the next round of pizzas. I finished out my volunteer experience by laying fennel across a rack to be dried out. Once we washed up and tossed our aprons in the laundry bin, all the volunteers got to sit down to eat the healthy lunch that we had helped make. It was delicious!