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One Acre Cafe seeking volunteers to help the "pay what you can" restaurant

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"Eat what you want, pay what you can." May sound too good to be true, but the concept has materialized into more than 20 restaurants nationwide. The innovative approach to combating hunger, has made its way to Johnson City thanks to the vision of a local mother and son.

The desire to create this type of restaurant, paying only what you can afford, stems from great need in our region.According to data from Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, approximately 1 out of every 5 people in Northeast Tennessee lives in poverty, and nearly one out of five suffers from food insecurity - simply unable to provide the food necessary for themselves and/or their families.

One Acre Cafe plans to open its doors at 603 West Walnut Street in October, with a soft opening in September.

News Channel 11's Kylie McGivern takes us inside the future location of a nonprofit hoping to make a difference, one healthy meal at a time.

Like any good story, this one starts with one person and an idea.

"The vision caster was Jane Orchard, who is my mom," One Acre Cafe Manager Bryan Orchard said.

He grabbed onto his mother's vision, and didn't let go.

"I have a heart for the things that my mom has a heart for."

A heart for giving back -

"There are folks in our community that have less, that are not as fortunate as we are."

- And soul desire, to make a difference.

"This café exists and is going to exist for those folks that for whatever reason, find themselves on the other side of plenty," Orchard said.

The concept is simple, but follows a far deeper issue that plagues our region.

"Within our area, approximately 74,000 people are food insecure, and have reported that they don't have enough food for themselves or their families on a regular basis... That breaks down to about 1 in 5 in our region," Second Harvest of Northeast Tennessee Executive Director Rhonda Chafin said. "The One Acre Cafe will provide a wonderful resource to families. They can go out to dinner, they may only have a few dollars but they can, they can donate what they can and still provide for their families and they can have a nice restaurant setting and have a nutritious meal."

Rather than pizza, hamburgers and macaroni and cheese, One Acre Cafe will feature seasonal, nutritious foods.

"This is going to be healthy meals, very much built on produce, fruits and vegetables, and we're going to partner with our local farmers," Orchard said.

Beverly Jenkins, Owner of Main Street café in Jonesborough, will serve as Advisor to One Acre Cafe, bringing her restaurant and food services expertise to the non-profit organization. She says she's looking forward to the creative opportunities involved in crafting menus from seasonal items.

"There's a lot of farmers around here. And connecting with them is pretty easy, and they love to sell bulk things to us, and it's just a win win situation for everybody," Jenkins said.

"Along the way, the journey has been much more extensive than any of us thought," Orchard said. "There are so many elements that need to come together to make something like this happen."

Though the road to develop One Acre Cafe hasn't been easy, Wednesday provided just a moment to look back.

"I mean it's amazing that we're here, in this space, one year after this vision was cast," Orchard said. "The vision was cast by one person, that person gets the ball rolling, and we stand here a year later in an amazing space, at an amazing time, doing amazing things. It will be successful is the community embraces it."

Orchard says One Acre Cafe isn't just about giving back, but people giving in, paying it forward. Those who dine at the café can volunteer, and in turn, gain life skills.

"We invite them in to then participate in the life of the cafe, to work in the café to gain these skills, these food service skills. And then we're gonna work with them to then send them back out into the community and to the other food service businesses in the local area, and help to place them in those positions so then they for themselves can go back out and play a role in their own community," Orchard said.

A community that's fueling the hunger, to make a difference in people's lives.

"This is just right. It's the right thing to do, and when you do the right thing, it resonates with folks," Orchard said.

One Acre Cafe will start with serving lunch, and possibly extend their hours from there. Except for a paid chef and manager, the café operations will be completely driven by volunteers.

All this month, Bryan and other board members will be working on construction and renovations to have a fresh, clean slate for the new restaurant.

If you want to get involved in the community effort, you're encouraged to email the One Acre Cafe team, visit: http://www.oneacrecafe.org/

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