By Jacob Trump
Community activist Maggie Kane spoke to the freshman class of William Peace University on Sept. 6 as part of the first year success stories series. Kane is the founder of Raleigh’s first ‘pay what you can’ cafe in Downtown Raleigh.
Kane is a N.C. State graduate, and started working with non-profit organizations benefiting those experiencing homelessness in 2013. Five years later, Kane was able to bring her dream of A Place at the Table to Raleigh.
“There weren’t many places where people could come together and share the same space,” said Kane. “The cafe has a suggested price, but visitors are free to pay that price, or more or less. They can also volunteer to pay for their meal.”
WPU freshmen are studying food insecurity and hunger related issues as part of their first-year seminar course this semester. In August, the students packed more than 12,000 meals for families in need as part of the Rise Against Hunger event.
Kane is passionate about helping the less fortunate. She believes it is important to help those struggling regain a sense of personal choice. Approximately 150 people visit the cafe on Hargett Street in the city’s Warehouse District every week. Kane was inspired by visiting other pay-as-you-can restaurants.
“If others can use a pay if you can model, then Raleigh can too,” said Kane.
Kane shared insights into the inner workings of the cafe, and how it has grown along with the community. Kane also shared personal stories about customers who regularly visit the cafe and how it has changed their lives.
“There were two parents and a kid, the mom said ‘you can only get a side meal’ until I went up to them and told her that the menu prices were suggested, which then led the mother into tears and she thanked me for letting them eat out for the first time in months,” said Kane.
Kane encourages students to get involved with the community, and there are always opportunities for volunteering at A Place at the Table.
Photo of Maggie Kane, taken by Jacob Trump.