Restaurants, grocers and artisan food makers that give back

MORE RESTAURANTEURS, GROCERS and artisan food makers are recognizing that community involvement counts. Our region has long been a leader when it comes to charity work and giving back. Here are some innovative examples:

The Gratitude Bowls project partners with restaurants such as Matteo’s Public, South Pine Cafe and Java John’s, all in Nevada City, and the Ridge Cafe in North San Juan, to provide free, nourishing meals to people in need. The Gratitude Bowls project pays restaurants for each bowl served, so their businesses prosper as well.

Each quarter, Summer Thyme’s Bakery & Deli in Grass Valley highlights three local nonprofit groups. Their posters are hung on the wall, and a black box sits below each poster. For every $5 spent, customers receive a wooden nickel to drop into the nonprofit box of their choice.

At the end of the quarter, Summer Thyme’s donates a percentage of its profits to the nonprofits based on the number of nickels dropped into the box. “We have a two-year wait to display posters,” says Summer Thyme’s owner Amy Cooke.

Restaurants, wineries, breweries and coffee houses throughout the region regularly give back. They host fundraisers, donate food and wine, or donate a percentage of their sales to nonprofits for health care, animal
welfare, education and arts and culture.

Matteo’s Public donates 15 percent of sales on a certain night to a nonprofit, such as California CareForce. This year Matteo’s is offering a free Thanksgiving meal to people in need. “Matteo’s was founded on the belief that only through the success of our community will we prosper,” says owner Matt Margulies.

Now in its eighth year, the John Kane Penny Pitch is a fundraiser for the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Coalition. The event is patterned after San Francisco’s 38-year-old penny pitch fundraiser for the St. Anthony Foundation.

Nevada County’s version is on the patio and sidewalk in front of Kane’s Restaurant in Grass Valley. Contestants pitch pennies against a wall, and the closest to the wall wins. Kane’s offers a special food menu, along with music and a raffle.

This year, some 175 players pitched pennies raising $5,900 for DVSAC. Chief sponsors and hosts are Nevada County Broadcasters (KNCO-830AM & STAR 94FM) and Kane’s Restaurant.

As they check out, BriarPatch customers can ask the cashier to round up their total payment to the nearest dollar or more. The amount over and above the purchase total—100 percent of it—is donated to a designated project.

BriarPatch sponsors many community events, and its community fund has given more than $45,000 to 55 local groups, such as Hospitality House. BriarPatch also donates food to nonprofits, such as 875 pounds of chicken to the Food Bank of Nevada County.

Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. in Nevada City released Endangered Ale, a limited edition red ale. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the beer benefitted the South Yuba River Citizens League’s work to restore wild salmon to the Yuba watershed.

Global Generosity
In a global adventure, Cello Chocolate, an artisan chocolate maker in Nevada City, is donating its know-how to help third-world cacao growers create their own chocolate making operations.

“Most cacao growers only grow the beans, but don’t process them into a finished product, which is a much more profitable enterprise,” says Debi Russell, who owns Cello, along with husband Ned.

The Russells, joined by Peace Corps volunteers, are aiming to change that. They recently traveled to Equador to help a village refine its chocolate making operations. Debi and Ned teamed up with Peace Corps volunteer Henry Harrison, whose parents live in Nevada City. They met when the Russells were selling their fair-trade chocolate at Victorian Christmas.

(Photo: John Burnett)

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