The role of the community caf in addressing food security: Perceptions of managers and directors. Academic Article uri icon


  • In the United States, the pay-what-you-can restaurant model (community cafes) is an increasingly popular approach to addressing food insecurity in local communities. We conducted semi-structured interviews (n=13) with community caf executive managers and directors to assess their perceptions of the role that their cafes play in addressing food security (FS). Analysis of interviews revealed two major areas of emphasis by participants. Filling an unoccupied space in the food security landscape. Interviewees regularly cited the goal of making meals available through a dependable schedule, convenient location, and welcoming atmosphere for guests to promote regular visits to the caf, and they did so with an awareness of how their practices were shaped by perceived shortcomings in comparable services. In addition, guest agency and social aspects of the caf as components of utilization, was another major area. Interviewees often regarded the opportunity of the food insecure guest to choose healthy options (i.e., nutritionally dense) over less healthful ones (i.e., calorically dense) from the menu as a critical component of their service. The social component of the caf (e.g., community atmosphere, 'dining-out' experience) was another aspect of the caf's function that promoted dignity for the guest which can lead to greater likelihood of return visits. Perceptions shared by participants of the caf's role in addressing food security suggest that rather than simply adding to the available options of hunger relief services, the caf model attempts to address many areas of concern, such as structural and cultural barriers, found in the traditional forms of charitable food provision.

published proceedings

  • Appetite

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • McNeely, A., Borchers, L., Szeszulski, J., Eicher-Miller, H. A., Seguin-Fowler, R. A., & MacMillan Uribe, A.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • McNeely, Andrew||Borchers, Lori||Szeszulski, Jacob||Eicher-Miller, Heather A||Seguin-Fowler, Rebecca A||MacMillan Uribe, Alexandra

publication date

  • May 2024