Saturday, April 23, 2022

Everyone eats at Big Big Table on Hudson St.


Big Big Table, 272 Hudson St.

By Valerie Ryan and Peyton Fletcher

            The gates on the window are pushed to the side, the OPEN sign lights up and as you step through the door a bell chimes, a warm smile welcomes you to a cup of coffee, a cookie or a big nutritious meal to start your day.

            The small cozy cafe is painted with bright yellow walls, two big wooden dining room tables and plastered on the wall in big letters is: “Everybody Eats. Everybody Gives. Everybody Matters.” However, the difference between here and any other cafe on the West Side is that at this cafe everyone eats regardless of the amount of money in their wallet.

            Big Big Table, 272 Hudson St., is Western New York’s first community cafe where patrons pay-as-they-can. 

            “Everybody deserves to be eating. There should be no one that’s sitting in this country or in the world that has to decide should I pay my bills or should I eat dinner,” Theresa Dempster, the chef and kitchen manager at Big Big Table, said.  


            Monday through Friday, between the hours of 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. everyone is encouraged to sit and have a meal.

            “If you have 5 cents you are going to get the exact same meal as someone that gave me $20,” Dempster said.

            Big Big Table aims to tackle food insecurity in the community and the cafe offers three forms of payment: Money, volunteer work or donations of produce and packaged goods.

            Dempster says the cafe will accept a donation between $2 and $15, depending on what you are willing to give, a minimum of 30 minutes of volunteer work helping chop vegetables, sweep or wash dishes, or donations of frozen vegetables, canned goods or any food items that can be used for future meals.

            The food items used to make weekly meals are mostly all donated goods from local urban farms, gardens, grocery stores and small businesses including The Lexington Co-op on Elmwood Avenue and Ashkers Fresh Market in Black Rock. Some donations for example are distressed produce, which in other words is perfectly good produce that cannot be sold because of its appearance or imperfections. Big Big Table can transform this produce into nutritious meals for the community.

            One World Everybody Eats is a non-profit organization that helped Big Big Table’s founder, Mandy Bailey, start the community cafe on Hudson Street. One World Everybody Eats supports almost 50 cafes across the country by providing the necessary information, resources and connections to learn the ropes about how to help fight hunger in communities.

            “Our focus is sort of increasing food security through the pay-as-you-can model and we want to be able to empower the community to do so,” Julie Williams, One World Everybody Eats board director said.

            Heather McCarthy, community and operations manager at Big Big Table, praised One World Everybody Eats for the connections it offered with a nationwide network of people doing similar things.

             “They give us guidelines and a little bit of software and support to help us be successful on the operations side,” McCarthy said.

            Big Big Table has been up and running for about six months and Bailey says she loves where the café is located.

            “This neighborhood is super diverse in every way, I love that and frankly I love everybody, and Big Big Table loves everybody,” Bailey said.

            Big Big Table hopes to continue to feed and connect with more members of the community.

            “This is who we are, nothing's gonna change,” Dempster said. “We will feed you no matter what.”