In a world where much of daily life revolves around meals, food insecurity is an issue in communities across the world. Working to fight this issue in Rapid City is Fork Real Community Café.
Opening its doors in October 2017, Fork Real is part of the One World Everybody Eats organization. As one of 60 cafés across the country that utilize a “pay what you can” business approach, the café ensures that guests are fed, even if they cannot pay for their meal. As part of this approach, in exchange for their meal, patrons can pay its’ suggested cash value, help contribute additional funds towards another’s meal, or people can eat for free and volunteer their time to offset the costs.
“We are a hand up, not a hand out,” says Rhonda Pearcy, founder of Fork Real. As a former teacher and avid volunteer in her church and community, she has seen first-hand the importance of making a difference beyond the surface level. The café feeds people past their obvious physical need, and mirrors the ministry of Jesus Christ, serving one another in love. They build connections through conversation and use opportunities to connect amidst community boundaries.
No matter a person’s walk of life, Rhonda says there is a place for everyone at the café. They view food as the excuse for conversation and community and work hard to truly meet those who walk through their doors.
In addition to many organizations in the community that help those in need, Rhonda hopes the café can be a bridge with those organizations and the people they are helping. When a patron volunteers in exchange for their meal, it provides training for life skills. Whether cooking, cleaning, or helping organize – these skills can help build a resume or a possible reference for future employment.
Being a volunteer-supported organization, the café functioned well within the shared space and time they had in the lower level of Creamery Mall. However, as attendance and opportunities continued to grow, the café began raising funds for phase two of their business plan: to pursue a larger, dedicated space to call their own.
In addition to funds raised, an unexpected financial boost came in the form of a $50,000 grant from the “A Community Thrives” program. Through these funds, Fork Real Café has secured a new location at 324 St. Joseph St., in the old Carini’s Italian Food building. Pearcy says this move provides opportunities on many levels. Instead of sharing space as they did at their old location, the café now has their own kitchen 24/7. They have expanded hours and are more easily accessible as a street level venue. Over time, they hope to add interior garden space, host community style meals, offer evening cooking classes and partner with community organizations for educational opportunities.
Fork Real Community Café provides real food, real connection, and real conversation. “It is a ministry that we are doing, just in a different way.”
Words by Lyndsey Akley
Photos by Jesse Brown Nelson