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NEST Cafe, the QC’s first ‘Pay-What-You-Can’ restaurant, opens

NEST Cafe is donation-based, meaning there aren’t set menu prices. It’s a conscious effort to make healthy foods more accessible to Quad Cities residents.
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 6:29 PM CDT
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ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - NEST Cafe is donation-based, meaning there aren’t set menu prices. It’s a conscious effort to make healthy foods more accessible to Quad Cities residents and lower the level of food insecurity.

“We think everyone should have access to actual, real food,” said Laura Mahn, NEST Cafe’s founder, and director.

Mahn said she’s been dreaming about opening up NEST Cafe for over a decade.

“From lots of life experiences, I saw that there needed to be a place where people can eat the same food, no matter where they fall on the economic spectrum,” Mahn said.

NEST, which stands for nourish everyone sustainably together, is unique. It’s the first ‘pay-what-you-can’ restaurant in the Quad Cities.

“We have a suggested donation, and that’s really just to get people any idea because otherwise, people are like, ‘I have no idea what to donate,’” Mahn said. “The suggested donation for a half plate is $7 and for a full plate is $10, but those are really just suggestions to give someone parameters. People can donate whatever they are able to donate that day, so if you have 50 cents, you can donate 50 cents. If you have $30, you can donate $30.”

Mahn said one of NEST’s goals is to provide easier access to healthy foods.

“It’s a little bit weird that real fresh, actual food that comes out of the ground is some of the most expensive food you can get,” Mahn said. “We really do serve everyone on the economic spectrum. It’s not just a restaurant for people who are poor, or food insecure, it’s not just a restaurant for people who are wealthy. It’s a restaurant for everyone.”

Tameka Toney, a Quad Cities resident, feels the ‘pay-what-you-can’ idea will benefit the area.

“Maybe one day you’re not able to pay. I like the option of being able to volunteer your time as well, or just paying the full price, whatever you think the full price is,” Toney said. “I think it is going to attract all types of people just because of the type of concept it is.”

“We want to be a place where people from all over the community come from lots of different life circumstances and situations, where everyone comes and feels welcome and has access to the same good, delicious food,” Mahn said.

NEST has a small group of paid employees but is looking for more volunteers. To learn how you can sign up to be a volunteer, click or tap here.

NEST Cafe is located on Fourth Avenue in Rock Island and is open for lunch Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cafe also serves dinner on Monday nights from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m.

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