Saturday May 25th, 2024 3:39AM

Whole Being Café aims to Feed a Neighbor

By Lawson Smith Anchor/Reporter
A Flowery Branch coffee shop is working to help feed those in the community who may be suffering from food insecurity through an initiative that encourages its patrons to ‘pay it forward’. 
 
Whole Being Café Co-owner Kevin Tomlinson recently spoke to AccessWDUN about the restaurant’s Feed a Neighbor program, which allows the cafe to provide free meals to those in need. 
 
Tomlinson explained that the initiative operates through patrons rounding up their bills or giving other monetary donations to the program, which is then put onto a debit card, known as the FAN Card, that can be used to pay for someone’s meal.
 
“[It] has just caught on in our community here where people come in, and they get a cup of coffee, a little breakfast sandwich and their ticket might be $7.48,” Tomlinson explained. “And they'll round it up, they'll round up to 8 dollars or round up to 10 dollars. Or, they'll make a 5 dollar donation. It's just really the concept of several small donations, adding up over time did make a difference in someone's life.”
 
Tomlinson said the program allows those who may need a free meal to come into the restaurant and order from its menu and enjoy time in the cafe. 
 
“All they do is they just ask whoever is ringing up the register, ‘Can you put that on the FAN Card?” Tomilson said. “And they are trained to take that card out. No questions. We're not asking for anything to prove your need.”  
 
 The concept for the FAN Card came to Tomlinson in 2021, when he realized he wanted to use the resources he had to give back to his community. 
 
“Our platform here in our community is being kind of a center location for community and involvement and being part of our neighborhood,” he said. “ And we serve coffee and food. So, the platform I have is the ability to cook and prepare coffee, prepare food-- and we thought ‘How can we do a better job of helping those in our neighborhood with food insecurities that might have a struggle?’”
 
Since the program was implemented, Tomlinson estimates the FAN Card has fed roughly 100 people each year. The funds from the program have also been used to pay for other initiatives that aim to end hunger, such as Mercy Chefs, which provides food to communities after natural disasters. 
 
“As we get more funds on our card, we make donations to them and help them feed those people on a larger scale,” Tomlinson shared. “And we have a couple homes here that are taking care of women that are struggling with addictions or maybe battered or maybe pulled out of trafficking, and we use that same card to feed them.” 
 
Tomlinson told AccessWDUN that while the program can’t help everyone, he takes pride in making a small difference in someone's life. 
 
“You just can't imagine the joy on someone's face, to sit down in this type of environment,” he said. “They're being celebrated. We're celebrating them just like everybody else that comes in here. “
 
While the funds on the FAN card saw its most significant growth in 2023, Tomlinson said contributions to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit are always appreciated. Those interested in contributing to the program’s mission can visit Whole Being Café’s website, or by going to the restaurant. The cafe is located at 5510 Main St. Flowery Branch, GA 30542.
 
 
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