DENVER - The SAME Cafe isn't an average restaurant.
"The SAME stands for: So All May Eat," explained Carrie Shores with the cafe.
It's the longest running participation-based cafe in the United States. That means if someone can't afford to buy a meal, they can volunteer their time doing work at the cafe. Customers can also donate to pay it forward for a meal for someone else and donate produce from their own garden.
The East Colfax location sees the need for easy-access, healthy meals daily.
"Last year, we served in our Denver location around 22,000 people, 22,000 lunches," said Shores.
The nonprofit relies on donations to prepare lunches for their guest. Around 60% of the produce used is donated by the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms.
"In addition to the large-scale, conventional corn and pumpkins, we have seven acres of small-scale, mixed vegetables. We grow it organically," said Josie Hart, associate director of farm programs at Chatfield Farms.
The majority of the food grown at Chatfield Farms goes into the 300-member community farm share program, but 50 shares each week go to several food security partners.
"Last year, on our seven acres, we harvested 35.5 tonnes of food, and 20,000 pounds of that was donated to all of our partners," said Hart.
Last season they served 843 people through free farm stands with Denver Housing Authority and more than 125 families every other week though work with Denver Human Services and Food Bank of the Rockies.
Something clicked when it came to partnering with participation model, pay-what-you-can-based cafes like SAME Cafe and GraceFull Cafe in Littleton.
"People who don't have a home, or people who don't have a kitchen really have a hard time with just raw produce," said Hart. "We realize that food security is not just about vegetables, but it's about warm, healthy meals and people coming together around a table, which is something that a farm can't provide."
If you're interested in contributing to the work being done at the Botanic Gardens site, click here.