Since the beginning of February 2021, restaurants in the US state of Oklahoma have been offering free meals to those in need with prepaid receipts. Receipts are placed on the walls by customers who have paid in advance and are available to those who are hungry.
Those in need of food can choose a meal from those available and sit down at the table and place an order with one of the local assistants, promising that they will not be judged or questioned.
The idea came from Sande Williams, assistant manager of a supermarket in Miami, Oklahoma (unlike Miami in Florida, it is pronounced “mysma”). One day, he remembered a story he saw in 2019 about a restaurant in Arkansas that asked his customers to buy food for those in need and put receipts on the wall.
Seeing the financial problems people in his city face during epidemics, he decided to refer to the owner of one of his favorite restaurants in a post on Facebook on the subject. The text reads, “Look at this. I pay for food once a week.”
The owner, Jennifer White, liked the idea and was eager to help. “I want to feed those in my community whether they have the money or not,” he told The Washington Post.
Jennifer called a sign near the entrance to invite her customers to buy early meals and fix receipts on the wall of the hotel, called The Dog House. The mayor of Miami, who regularly shows up there for lunch, says he was the first to buy extra food. The initiative was successful and soon more people decided to contribute.
Help the hungry
Jennifer fondly remembered a couple and their four daughters as a thank you for prepaid receipts. “They were kind and very grateful and they seemed to have a lot,” he says. She was delighted to see it, and for about an hour and a half was able to sit down to eat, have fun, and laugh, no matter how much they ate.
Due to the rules that demand social distance between people, the restaurant only operates with eight tables, yet it has already been able to receive more than 600 meals donated by its customers. “It says a lot about how amazing our community is,” says the owner Doc House.
In a post on the internet, restaurant managers thanked the people who supported the idea. Read the text “The level of support we have seen for our free food wall is impressive”.
To ensure that the idea was not just on the table of that space, the establishment decided to take another step in the good chain. At the end of each month, the leftover food on the wall is prepared and served to different companies that are fighting hunger. “We want to make sure this food reaches the people in our city who need it most,” they explain.
Unity and respect for others
The concept of the donation wall has spread to neighboring cities and has reached a small town of Vinita with more than 5,000 residents. In April, the restaurant Hi-Way Cafe, Located on the historic route 66 that crosses the city, which celebrated the fact that 100 people thanked the donation wall.
On their Facebook page, their owners thanked everyone who advertised the idea and all those who directly contributed to the success of the initiative. “It’s a great blessing for everyone involved,” they wrote.
Beth Hilburn, who runs the High-Way Cafe, frequently invites his customers to The Washington Post to buy extras such as a pie or cheeseburger from the menu, and he posts his contribution under a printed tray. The following message: “If you are hungry or know someone … these orders have been prepaid by previous customers”.
Anyone who uses a wall receipt receives a customer and equal respectful treatment like everyone else, Beth explains. “It is a sensible way to get a good meal without embarrassing anyone,” he believes. “I’ve heard people tell me this is the first time I’ve been able to eat at a restaurant in a long time. So there’s still a lot of suffering and hardship.”
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