Cameron McCown’s Bread of Life Community Deli in Meridian, Idaho, has an unusual business model, but so far, it hasn’t hurt.
McCown’s deli has adopted a “pay what you want” model for its food, and even customers who can’t pay anything are still allowed to eat, provided they volunteer as workers to pay off their meal.
About 60 percent of Bread of Life’s customers pay market price for their food, McCown told the Associated Press. About 20 percent pay more, and another 20 percent pay less than market price or nothing at all. Some people, moved by McCown’s mission, volunteer to work even if they’ve paid for their food.
McCown, 31, worked in the banking industry for several years after time in the Army before founding Bread of Life, which he calls “one of the joys of my life,” according to KTVB. He doesn’t affiliate the deli with any church or charity; he explains his goal in simple terms.
“Our mission is to love people. The way we do that is by feeding them no matter where they are in life,” he told the station. “We feel like if we’re doing what we know to be right for people in the community, then it will work out.”
And so far, things have been working out for the small (regular staff of four) deli. McCown uses a line of credit on his house for when the numbers don’t add up, but he’s running on a pretty strong supply of goodwill from the community as well.
“I was touched. It made me want to give as much as I possibly could,” Scott Wilkinson told KTVB.