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NEST Cafe working to solve food insecurity in the QCA

The non-profit received grant money from United Way’s United for Equity fund.
Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 5:00 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 1:13 PM CDT
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ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - A local pay what you can restaurant is getting a helping hand from the United Way. NEST (Nourish Everyone Sustainably Together) Cafe received $3,000 from the United for Equity Grant.

“So we’re first and foremost a restaurant, but our pay structure is a little different,” says Laura Mahn, NEST Cafe Executive Director and Founder. “We have a suggested donation amount for our meals, and people can donate that amount, they can donate more if they’re able, they can donate less, they donate what they can, and in the rare instance when someone doesn’t have any money to donate, we believe really strongly that everyone has something to give and something to share and people are invited to if they’re able, volunteer in the restaurant.”

In February 2021, The United Way announced 25 local organizations would be awarded $275,000 in grants as part of the United for Equity fund to “help reduce and prevent racial inequities in education, income and health.”

Mahn says NEST plans to use the grant money to hand out tokens for free meals. NEST currently partners with Dress for Success in Davenport, Family Resources in Davenport, and Project Now in Rock Island. Mahn says the tokens will be given to these organizations to hand out to their clients. “So we’re not really in the business of handing out free meals, but some people need that. So you know, they can bring the token in, get a free meal, and be introduced to NEST so that then they can hopefully see us as a resource and be part of our community and come back again.”

According to Mahn, in 2018 in the QC, 24% of the population was considered food insecure. Of that percentage, 80% were people of color. “That’s a huge disparity you know in those numbers. Food insecurity disproportionably affects people of color and there are a lot of historical reasons for that and social reasons for that and economic reasons, but we want to be part of, not just giving people a handout, I think people usually don’t want a handout, they want to be part of something that’s helpful for them.”

Part of NEST’s goal is to introduce community members to locally-grown, sustainably sourced food that is nutrient-dense. “People who are food-insecure, not only do they have to rely on cheap, really overly processed food that’s not really food at all it’s just manufactured stuff, those food items that they rely on, they contribute to health issues and it turns into this cycle. And so we want to try to break that cycle and offer people a really high-quality, nutrient-dense food that’s going to serve their bodies.”

NEST Cafe currently operates out of monthly pop-up events, but this summer, the organization is opening up a permanent location in Rock Island. The permanent location will be at 2623 5th Avenue in Rock Island. For more information on the pop-up events NEST holds, click here.

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