Defeating Hunger and Building Community
BY Cara Lynch (’01)
It was a Sunday night in mid-November and SAME Café in Denver, Colo., should have been closed. Only, their lights were brightly burning inside. I was passing through Denver and just happened to have an hour to spend with Libby (Whalen) (’97) and Brad Birky. One could clearly see the orange Gerbera daisies neatly arranged on the tables, the paper cranes hanging overhead and a group of lively people cooking and visiting inside. Sundays are the only days Libby and Brad take off from the daily grind of work. On this night though, they were busy preparing a meal for a community event focusing on spirituality and the work place.
On Oct. 19, 2007, the Birkys toasted the first anniversary of the café. Given their business model, this is quite an achievement. It defies all laissez-faire views of the market and economy. What makes SAME “unique” is that the Birkys insist upon a donation-only method of payment. Moreover, they have infused their food and restaurant with pure spirit. At the center of their philosophy and work the two are driven to build a better community. “We do ask people to give more. This is an intentional place to connect those who have with those who have very little,” Libby said.
SAME is an acronym for So All May Eat. The Birkys insist that everybody—the single mother struggling to buy food for her children, the down and out homeless man panhandling and the suit-wearing executive—should have access to healthy, organic and delicious food. Anyone who walks through the doors of the café is fed. The catch is that no one is required to pay for their meal. Instead patrons are encouraged to donate what they can or what they feel the food is worth. If unable to donate monetarily the Birkys ask that one hour of work in the restaurant be exchanged for one meal eaten.(full story