We’ve come to the conclusion that we have created something good. Restaurants, nonprofits and those they serve all benefit when FoodCircles exists. In Grand Rapids, 4,112 diners have signed up for our service (pop. 192,000). However, the way FoodCircles exists is not sustainable. Nonprofits and restaurants need from us more than we can give. We’re evaluating two options:
A) Either we must become a nonprofit ourselves and raise the difference we need to support 1-2 staff per city launched, or B) we must seal up technology to where nonprofits and restaurants can start/sustain “buy one, feed one” movements on their own merit, leaving us out as the middle-man.
We strongly prefer the latter option. Why do we need to be in the picture, when great people like Garry Boyd and Cindy Schneider can work directly with Lisa Sisson and Jenny Jordan instead? But we have some work to do to isolate the problem we’re solving for nonprofits and restaurants and construct a more helpful solution.
We’ve decided to put FoodCircles on temporary hiatus until we conduct enough interviews to know what step to take – route A or B. We’ll pause our apps starting February 1st, granting us valuable time needed to step back and do some interviews.
Editor’s note: This was written originally by a friend co-laboring down in Indianapolis, who first posted it to her personal blog. We are grateful she was willing to let us re-share these words with you.
From author: My name is Molly. I am an advocate. For the poor, for my children, and for a faith that is well-represented. Advocacy has taken on many different forms for me over the years. Currently I run a food pantry on the east side of Indianapolis that provides food to over 1,200 families each month. I used to think I was called to serve those living in poverty, but over the past few years I’ve learned that’s just one piece of it. I believe part of my calling is to equip and empower others to do the same.
It is early morning and the sun is just beginning to wake. That first drink of coffee warms my lips, warms my inside. I kiss my children goodbye, the two hour delay leaving them home, snuggled on the couch this bitter January day. I zip my coat, tighten my scarf and head for work. On the radio they talk about subzero temperatures and snow delays, make jokes about how it’s too cold to leave the house even for the kids to go sledding. But when I arrive at the Food Pantry, an hour and a half before we open, I find plenty of people that have already left the house. I find some waiting in their cars, others peering through the windows to see what’s inside. One comes out from around back, probably checking to see if we’ve set anything salvageable out for the trash.
We will serve two hundred families that day. Many will come in under dressed for the weather. Some will wait at the bus stop for a ride. Others will even walk. For many of our families, our waiting room will be the warmest place they sit all day. They will wait patiently with their children for their turn to shop. Wait patiently with their infants. There is an older man that catches my eye. He nearly falls coming up to the counter, tripping over his own feet. He talks to me about his arthritis as he holds up a shaky hand with a cane. Smiles warmly and says, ‘Thank You,’ as he moves slowly toward the shopping carts. I will lose count that day of the number of people that say, ‘Thank You.’
Each person that comes through the pantry line has a story that has brought them to this place of great need. Sometimes the need is so deep and so real that you can see it on them the moment they walk in. There is a heaviness they carry. A certain sadness that hovers over them as they speak. A quiet desperation in their eyes.
In November 2014, I traveled to San Francisco and spent 5 days (Thursday–Monday) skating the streets to introduce FoodCircles to different startups, engineers, and connectors. I received some of the best technical, managerial, and fundraising advice of my life and wrote the following as a response to the question, “So, how did it go?”
Guidepost to Reading — There are two general ways of reading this post:
The “Lessons” Route: skim down the post, looking for the bold or yellow-highlighted sections. When you find something you like, feel free to read the context.
The “Narrative” Route: read the full perspective of an entrepreneur—and many times wantrapreneur—trying to find his way through the city and his first startup.
Late Wednesday Night
The journey started on a late, rainy night finding my way into the hills of Chinatown to get to my Couchsurfing host’s apartment. I once slipped on my longboard and watched it almost get crunched by traffic. Thinking back, losing my board would have greatly limited my trip and experience. But thankfully, that didn’t happen. I got to Ken’s place and he was already asleep, leaving a note for me on the table. I hit the strange bed in the strange city in the heart of Chinatown and tried to get ready for the day that was to come.
We don’t have to be thankful for all things. We can, however, be thankful in all things.
Imagine the conversation: “Hey. Don’t worry about preparing ANY food for Thanksgiving this year. We’ve got you covered..”
On Saturday, I contacted the five families that were chosen for a complimentary, gourmet Thanksgiving meal provided by the Gilmore Collection.
Having the experience of giving these families the news felt surreal. The responses were a mix of shock and gratitude, followed by a tremendous sense of happiness and relief about not having to worry about the big meal this Thursday. Here are the redacted versions of the stories:
[Mom] and [Dad] have two young children. [Oldest daughter] has been battling brain cancer since she was a couple months old. They have to live in their mother’s basement because finances are tight. [Dad] lost his job this past year because of absenteeism to be with her during treatments.
Mom and Dad have adopted >6 kids out of foster care in the past three years. While they do have food in the fridge, it is always an ordeal to cook for a big family. I know that this would bless them substantially, in order to just BE together for a meal, no stress about prepping. Mom suffers from fibromyalgia and it flares up in the winter. They just have a ton on their plate, and are so worth blessing the heck out of. Continue reading →
One thing our team recently realized was that there was no concise, readable, site that showcased public Grand Rapids food specials from local restaurants. What we’ve done is start a list that will hopefully be useful for you, the diner, to scan specials by location & day. Want to add something? Email us / comment below. We’ll add it here ASAP.
“BOFO” = Buy One, Feed One. $1+ dish (pay more if you like), 100% donated to charity.
There’s a lot of pride and support for local eateries here in Grand Rapids. Now we see why.
Over the last few months, we’ve toured “Buy One, Feed One” restaurants to shoot footage in their natural state of work. This is the result. You’re going to love it.
Ok, maybe there’s less grooving and shaking involved everyday, but these servers are as incredible as their dance moves. Grand Rapids is the only city in the world to have “Buy One, Feed One” establishments, and we’re indebted to their waiters’ and waitresses’ willingness to adopt something new into their already complex jobs. So, here’s one for the servers.
As you go out to grab food with friends over ArtPrize, consider choosing a “Buy One, Feed One” venue. Using our iOS app, Android app, or website, anyone can try a dish at these establishments for $1 or more, and they’ll turn around and give 100% of that to feed hungry children in our community. It’s pretty cool, as are the staffs who love making this possible.
– Jonathan and the FoodCircles team
ps. If you know any of these servers, would you mind sending this video their way?
Cherie Inn’s in as a “Buy One, Feed One” establishment.
“The air is cool, and the days are still long.. “
… we find ourselves late in summer where flower has turned to fruit. Berries dot bushes, and the fields ripen — soon, the harvest will be upon us. Many people in our world consider this time as an opportunity to remember the abundance of nature. We remember that we have so much – our basic needs are met. Central to this vision is a fruit plate the Cherie Inn has offered as a new Buy One, Feed One establishment.
The USDA recommends most of you take in two cups of fruit a day. For just $1, you and a friend can now knock that out over a meal at the Cherie Inn. Their heritage and reputation for good food speaks for itself, and appropriately, 100% of your “first fruits” purchase goes to help pass our abundance to children here who need it. Each dollar you spend is one dinner for a child or family locally in Grand Rapids. Click below to feel good and do good this weekend and in September.
As an aside, Cherie Inn is an unusual standout when it comes to operational efficiency. The proprietor, Michael Kulczyk, states they have not had a sitdown staff meeting in 18 years. And yet your breakfast sandwich makes it to you in less than 15 minutes, with name-by-name service. We’re not sure how they’ve managed to avoid meetings for 6,500+ days and stay as efficient as they have (we’re awaiting a Harvard business review to mine their secrets). Welcome aboard, Cherie Inn.
Grand Rapids Brewing Co. is now a “Buy One, Feed One” establishment.
“..One of the friendliest staffs you’ll meet,”
..in one of the coolest spaces downtown, on the cornerstone of the city of Grand Rapids. The gang at 1 Ionia originally collaborated before your parents were born with six other breweries to form the Grand Rapids Brewing Company in 1892. It was oddly similar to hobbits, men, elves and dwarves coming together in Lord of the Rings. With GRBC’s decision to become a “Buy One, Feed One” establishment, the results are just as spectacular.
GRBC now enables anyone, any day to put dinner on the table for a child in need just by coming in to the brewery. You can try an order of Street Tacos for just $1 or more (order = 3 tacos), and 100% of your purchase goes to providing square meals. We’re stoked to let you know about GRBC’s decision to enable us to give today. Click below to buy a 30-day voucher for just $1, or hit up GRBC on the app. There are just 5 left this week.
To practice what we preach, in perhaps the strangest Happy Hour invite ever, we asked a few friends to try GRBC last week and confirmed that the chorizo inside the Street Tacos is the bomb. My bud Stephen also had high praise for the Fried PB&J (that strawberry jam….) and Katie was all about their Scotch Egg (that sausage….). That’s not even to mention the brews, which local snob Stan Samuels gives two thumbs up. In all these experimentations, they were able to provide dinner to 3 children here, via Kids Food Basket.
Sometimes we get bored on Fridays..
Many restaurants are “going #BOFO” this fall. Can’t wait to show you who.
This weekend you might be spending time sharing meals with family or friends. We’ve shared that one of our favorite parts is the conversations that take place between nibbles. We’ve all had that meal or drink with someone that could’ve gone on all night, and it’s not because of the food. But what about when it’s not like that?
What about those meals filled with awkward pauses, glances at phones, observances of the clinks of silverware around the room? How do you turn these conversations around, and in doing so, serve the person you’re talking to?
We’ve been studying this question for awhile now. Powerful questions spur meaningful conversations. We started with 40 solid ones, but have since boiled it down to the best five. Listed from less to more adventurous—