This post was originally published on Hello Jackson on March 3, 2014.
ComeUnity Café is doing something so exciting and new in Jackson, and I’m so thrilled to finally be sharing about it here! They are a non-profit cafe with a six-item menu that changes each day.
ComeUnity Café is one of the most inviting and warm restaurants that I’ve been to in Jackson. From the greeting at the door to the smiles from the volunteers behind the counter, everything is just extremely pleasant. Besides the atmosphere, the food is just incredible! Executive Chef Jesse Perkins has created some amazing dishes using almost entirely organic and locally sourced food.
Each day there are two choices each for soup, salad, and sandwich. I always choose a full sandwich and a half order of soup, and it’s an excellent amount for lunch! There are three ways to pay for what you choose from the menu.
Founder Amy Crenshaw explains it well: “If someone is unable to afford a meal, they may exchange an hour of work in the café or our urban garden for a meal. The second way is to pay the suggested donation price for the meal, or the third way is to pay whatever one chooses above the suggested donation to help pay-it-forward. We at present are serving about fifteen percent of our meals in exchange for work. We feel like giving someone the option to exchange their work for our food gives dignity to the exchange.”
Currently ComeUnity Café uses meat and produce from Rose Creek Farms, J&J Farms, Lime Foods, Paradise Seafoods, and, of course, their own urban garden just a block away. Local bakery HaliHannigan’s also provides desserts from time to time. The delicious coffee served is roasted in Nashville by a non-profit after school program, Humphrey’s Street Coffee. They hope to use more local farm products once the West Tennessee Farmers' Market is in full swing this spring and summer. This approach to sourcing ingredients benefits the local economy and provides the chef with healthy ingredients to make wholesome meals. Another great thing about ComeUnity Café is that they use mostly compostable and biodegradable paper products and even compost scraps as much as possible. This will come in handy when they start gardening for the spring!
The Crenshaws decided to pursue opening the café after their older daughters discovered SAME Café in Denver, which also works on this pay-as-you-can philosophy. After being involved with Jackson’s homeless and under-served population for about six years, Amy Crenshaw has seen food insecurities and hunger in a variety of ways, and felt led to help. ComeUnity Café is staffed by about ninety percent volunteers, but there are plans to hire more staff members in the near future.
“One position will be someone to develop and coordinate a ‘volunteer to employment’ program,” Crenshaw says. “This will be a job training program for some of our more loyal volunteers that desire to build a resume of jobs skills. We hope to network with other local businesses to help find employment for some of these folks.”
Jackson is already benefiting greatly from the work that ComeUnity Café is doing. The reception for this new type of restaurant has been great, and I am definitely looking forward to eating there many more times.
Kristi Woody is a photographer and storyteller for our Hello Jackson features about locally owned retail stores and restaurants. She also works as the university photographer for Union University and owns her own wedding photography business, Woody & Pearl Photography. In her free time, Kristi enjoys spending time with her husband and rambunctious beagle, Rhett and Chipper respectively. If you can't find Kristi in Jackson, you'll find her in her second favorite place: Disney World!