Trimming overhead benefits shelter – and bottom line

Trimming overhead benefits shelter – and bottom line

Cafe donates extra organic produce

Frustrated by fuel surcharges and continually increasing delivery fees, Food for Thought owner Ellin Meade bit the bullet and bought herself a truck.

Staff and clients at Independence Cay welcomed the donation of fresh, organic produce from Food for Thought owner Ellin Meade made possible by purchasing her own box truck to pick up her own inventory from the mainland. Pictured (l-r) are: Henry Perez III, Meade, Independence Cay House Manager Adam Bell, Executive Director Kirk Maconaughey and Malvern Griffin aka Hat Man.

In order to make up for rising fuel costs, Meade said several of her distributors had tacked on additional costs to her bill for transporting produce from organic farms to South Florida.

“Then to deliver to the Keys, there’s always an additional cost,” Meade noted.

Buying power in the form of bulk purchasing helps keep her overhead down and prevent her from being forced to raise prices for her faithful customers.

“When I buy in bulk, I can get my produce at a better cost,” Meade explained. “But my biggest challenge is storage. I don’t have enough refrigerators to store all my perishable produce.”

Coincidentally, founder Michael Welber just happened to be in the store and was able to help Meade with her quandary.

Welber told her about a recent non-profit to register their needs on his website that aims to help residents de-clutter their homes without sending their stuff to a landfill.

Meade admitted that she was initially hesitant due to rumors of past mismanagement, but when she hauled her produce down to Independence Cay, the Middle Keys only transitional housing facility and daily soup kitchen, to check it out for herself, she was pleasantly surprised.

The staff and clients there were eager to accept the donation of organic carrots, mangoes, spinach and bananas which House Manager Adam Bell graciously shared with Keys Area Interdenominational Resource (KAIR) to use in their boxed lunches.

Meade also learned of plans in the works for an organic garden on the property.

“Keys GLEE and the Monroe County Extension Service have pledged their support in helping us start and manage an organic garden to help provide food for our clients who eat lunch here everyday,” Bell reported.

The cyclical benefits of working together are more than evident, as this story doesn’t end there.

The staff at Food for Thought can help answer questions on everything from raw food recipes to celiac management and the benefits of yoga and massage for long term overall wellness. Pictured (l-r) are: Brandi Simpson, Sue Mac, owner Ellin Meade, Jessica Lilly and Donna Waldrop.

Meade said the café kitchen in her store operates with a no waste philosophy. All vegetable peels, fibrous by-products from juices and smoothies, coffee grounds and any other biodegradable waste are collected for composting. Bell was eager to help take the waste off her hands and begin making his own dirt for use in the shelter’s garden.

“I’m really even hoping to be able to source their vegetables and products when they get their garden up and running and be able to buy from them,” Meade exclaimed of the newfound partnership.

With some fresh new faces having joined the already cohesive staff at Food for Thought, she’s even begun using minimal space to grow some of her own herbs and expand her hours to offer a more varied breakfast menu.

In the end, by getting creative with her finances and finding the money to purchase her funky new wheels, Meade was most proud of her ability to save a bit of money and still be able to share the wealth.


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