Church opening free cafe to help with campus hunger

Update: 2:00 pm, 10/2/17, Monday 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) -- Monday, Community United Church of Christ, on the UI campus, opened a free restaurant called Jubilee Cafe.

It allows students to choose what they want to eat from a menu and it's all free of charge. Organizers say they know many students scrape by on peanut butter and ramen noodles since they can't afford much else. That's why they opened the cafe.

It will be open every Monday, from 5 - 6:30 pm. You don't have to be a student to take part.

The church is still looking for sponsors to help pay for the first year. They say they need about $7,000 total. Donations of any size are welcome.

For more information, click here or here.

Original: 6:30 pm, 8/28/17, Monday

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) -- With tuition costs on the rise, some college kids are putting things like food on the back burner. Studies show two-thirds of college students in the U.S. don't have access to affordable, nutritious food. Educators say many can't afford it, and they're embarrassed to ask for help. 

So the Community United Church of Christ on campus is opening a cafe to help. It'll have a menu and waiters and dessert with every meal, and it'll be free for anyone who needs it. 

U of I student Taylor Crooks says he knows plenty people it would help. 

"I had a friend who worked literally three part-time jobs just to keep ends meet."

But he says she never asked for help. 

"There's sort of that stigma. I, personally, I'd be a little afraid to do it, too."

Education professor Johnell Bentz says she's been hearing stories like that for years. 

"Through talking to friends who advise students, both undergraduates and graduate students, I've heard a number of stories of students coming to their offices feeling hungry, not having enough money to make it through the week or the month to buy their food."

That's how she got the idea for the Jubilee Cafe.  It's opening in the Community United Church of Christ on campus October 2. It will serve dinner every Monday night from 5 to 6:30.  

"The cafe is going to run kind for like a restaurant, obviously our menu will be more limited than a typical restaurant."

That's because the cafe is free. The produce and service will be donated, all to help students who are struggling to eat. 

"We all like to joke about the fact that when I was in college, I survived on ramen noodles and peanut butter. That's not okay."

Organizers say this cafe won't feel like a soup kitchen. 

"We'll have home-cooked desserts, as well as the main part of the meal, and we'll really come in and feel like they have value and dignity, which is our goal."

She says too many times, people who struggle to eat don't feel that. 

"We really believe that they're guests here, and we want to treat them like that."

Organizers are still looking for sponsors to help them pay for the first year. They say they need about $7,000. Donations of any size are welcome.  


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