Our Story of Origin
Our food security story begins in 2012, when after the closing of the regional homeless shelter located in Wytheville, there was no place for transients to have a hot meal. Members of the faith community came together, led by Betty Robinette and others, to begin preparing warm meals in Mt. Pleasant UMC’s kitchen twice a week under the cooking guidance of Mert Stafford and her crew. Meals were delivered to Wytheville Baptist Church for serving each Monday and Thursday. Between 2012 and June 30, 2018, 35,716 meals have been served. In August, 2018, for the first time, 100 meals have been served on several occasions.
Helping Overcome Poverty’s Existence, Inc. (HOPE) a local non-profit working in housing affordability, food security and capacity building, agreed to be the fiscal agent for the Community Food Kitchen, under HOPE’s 501 c3 certification. In 2014, HOPE provided a dedicated AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer to work with the Community Food Kitchen to identify a path to expanding services beyond two days per week. The VISTA’s research came upon the One World Everybody Eats network, and a nearby pay what you can restaurant in Boone, NC., the FARM Café. Recognizing this business model addresses healthy food, fair wages, volunteer opportunities, and a means to sustainability, members of the steering committee and HOPE agreed to pursue financing to create a pay what you can restaurant somewhere in Wytheville.
In August, 2016, the first grant application was submitted to the Wythe-Bland Foundation. With notice in October, 2016 that the Foundation approved a grant of $222,000 for this project, HOPE began additional grant writing through 2016 and into late 2017. The largest grant comes from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture for $240,000 over three years. Total donations and grants to date are $560,000. Acquisition of the tire garage next door to HOPE’s corporate office on Main Street in downtown Wytheville occurred in March, 2018; construction began in April, and is scheduled to be complete by October.