BOZEMAN- Montana’s only pay-what-you-can restaurant serves people in the Bozeman community looking for where to get that next meal but they are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant halted asking for donations at the door since most patrons were unable to contribute anything for their meal.
In one week in September, the restaurant served 530 meals or roughly 90 people each night.
“Prior to the global pandemic, we were serving about the same number of people, but we had a variety of patrons, including folks who were paying it forward. Now, the vast majority of community members we are serving are in need of a free meal,” Rick Hilles, the Fork & Spoon’s program manager said.
Since March, Fork & Spoon has served just over 11,500 free meals to community members experiencing hunger.
About a quarter of those meals go towards feeding individuals in HRDC emergency housing.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Fork & Spoon catering was often booked, with proceeds helping to offset the cost of providing free meals at the restaurant.
Fork & Spoon now estimates they will lose at least $75,000 or more in gross catering revenue. That number does not account for previously anticipated growth.
Community members are encouraged to support Fork & Spoon by grabbing a meal from the restaurant and paying it forward or by making a donation.
“What we are lacking though is that we don’t have a lot of community engagement anymore because we used to have these really vibrant teams of volunteers that would come in and they would tell their friends about it, they would tell their businesses about it, they would also come in, they would donate, they would have a meal with their family, it was a lot more lively,” Leah Smutko, head chef and house manager said.
More information on the Fork and Spoon Community Café can be found here.