Provision Community Restaurant | Lavender Review


The concept: overturning the soup kitchen

In the middle of a snowstorm in Minnesota, Kenny Beck couldn’t start his car and was hitchhiking with his friend Anna Wienke. She told him about an idea she had for a restaurant. At the time, she was working at an upscale steakhouse and volunteering at a soup kitchen. She noticed people crossing the line, looking down, grabbing their food, then walking away to sit alone and eat.

One night she decided to try something different. She grabbed the other volunteers, pulled the tables together and served them like a restaurant. Instantly, their eyes lit up when a customer in need of a meal turned into a guest. The engagement turned the mood around and changed the mood from a dreary experience to a communal gathering. “She offered it to me,” and Beck said, “let me know how I can help you.” They assembled a board of directors, with Beck as treasurer, and started a non-profit organization.

It took several months, but the team was able to do enough fundraising and find a location. Provision Community Restaurant opened its doors in October 2019 with a come as you are, give as you can model. Everyone is welcome whether or not they have the financial means to attend. Sitting at a community table, “you’re going to be sitting with people you don’t necessarily know,” says Beck.

Food is served family-style “so people walk by and engage, creating conversation and community within the restaurant,” says Beck, “we’re trying to create that dining experience. Where people can sit down, have a great hearty meal that looks good, tastes good and is nutritious. Provision has two dinner services, at five o’clock and seven o’clock, accommodating approximately 20 to 25 people each.

The mission: 3 main ingredients

Provision’s mission is threefold: to reduce food waste, alleviate food insecurity and reduce social isolation. It is said that 40% of all food produced is wasted. To help reduce this waste, Provision receives donations of excess food from various sources such as restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries. To keep it from going to the dump, Provision will turn it into a meal.

It’s also said that one in seven Minnesotans go to bed hungry every night. Some who struggle with food insecurity don’t feel comfortable going to places like soup kitchens or food shelves, and if they do, they might not be nearby. As Anna experienced, these types of places are usually filled with lines of people, aluminum cans, polystyrene plates, and a dark single-player experience. Compounded by the pandemic, Provision aims to bring people together and make connections to pursue its mission.

The cook: waiter turned master cook

Beck always worked in restaurant service until he found his love for cooking. As a server at a top Minneapolis establishment, they demanded he know every ingredient in every dish and where they came from. “It was the first time I started paying attention to the ingredients and being like okay, it’s really not that hard. You don’t have to buy everything, you can do it from scratch.

Beck also has a long line of excellent cooks in her family where friends would profess the great impression of this mother’s meals. He’s taken that natural ability and desire to keep impressing to create a meal based on what Provision has at his disposal. He’s been the head chef from the start, but now Beck will take over as executive director of Provision, “the idea of ​​running a kitchen is by no means scary.”

The future: many cooks in the kitchen

Unfortunately, Provision had to temporarily suspend its operations. However, Beck has a recipe for cooking things up. “My hope is that I can get more people to know about our concept, work on fundraising and grants, and get some partnerships to really build this thing.” The goal is to scale up and replicate the model in other neighborhoods, suburbs and cities so that those who are food insecure have an option in their own community.

Provision also rents out its kitchen space to small food-related businesses. “While they’re with us, we help mentor them, train them, and give them the tools they need to be successful,” says Beck. Having the different partners in the same space allows them to communicate and work together and build ideas on each other. Beck hopes to capitalize on these relationships to offer cooking classes or chef shows to add another layer of engagement and fundraising to further Provision’s mission.

The relaunch: dinner is served

Since Provision had a bit of a rocky start, they plan to hold a big fundraiser in May, followed by a soft launch of a coffee shop operation. in preparation for the official inauguration in June. The Provision Cafe service will not have set hours, but will provide a space for people to come and relax, have a coffee, grab a bite of what is available like pastries, sandwiches or a small meal. As long as gathering restrictions ease, they will return to their family-style dining service model.

For those who want to help, the best thing to do is to donate your time and connections. While appreciated, attending a dinner party and contributing money for the night or small food donations aren’t very lucrative for feeding a crowd. Beck says they’d like people to help with operations, space and food preparation. Most importantly, “bringing Provision back to their work, friends and family, and connecting us with donors and grants or other industry groups looking to help.”


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