Café Appalachia

Parents who participate in any of Pollen8, Inc.’s or KISRA’s services will have the opportunity to join a training program through Café Appalachia. Café Appalachia is a public establishment that provides wholesome, farm-to-table meals to the community which are grown from our very own garden and indoor hydroponic/aquaponics space. Parents will grow food and learn sustainability practices, as well as agricultural skills. The food grown is then provided to the café where coffee and quiches are served and sold in the morning and lunch is provided in the afternoon for the community. Café Appalachia will provide parents with skills such as agriculture, food preparation, food ordering, canning, barista, baking, culinary, food service to restaurant management. The program’s goal is to train the parents to run the entire operation while being closely supervise by a Director. Upon completion of the program the participants will receive employment assistance within their communities.

Food served will be grown on our very own farm, located at the Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action (KISRA). While working the farm, parents will participate in agro-therapy practices under the direction of an agro-therapist. Psychological literature documents that horticulture therapy can heal. Regular physical work–essential to successful agriculture-has been proven to enhance mental functioning and health and even extend one’s life span. It releases chemicals that make people feel better and stimulates a feeling of well-being. The fruits and vegetables that are grown in the garden will be utilized to create healthy buffet-style meals for Café Appalachia, which will be located on “D” Street in downtown South Charleston. The farm and the café will provide an opportunity for clients to become more financially aware and begin to make choices that move them towards social sustainability.

Community Partnerships

The Café Appalachia program is an inter-organizational collaboration sponsored by Pollen8, Inc. The collaboration includes KISRA, the City of South Charleston, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, researchers from both West Virginia State University and South Charleston Technology Park, local farmers, and local restaurant owners.

Evidence of Need for the Project

Café Appalachia was created to build a culture of health amongst the families that Pollen8, Inc. services while providing a training program for employment skills with an overall goal to strengthen the families’ socioeconomic status. However, this program will not just benefit the low-income families that Pollen8, Inc. services. It will also create a culture of health for the extended community, as well. In 2016, West Virginia had the 2nd highest adult obesity rate in the nation. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation stated that 35.6% of West Virginia adults are obese. From this, rates for diabetes (14.5% of adults) and hypertension (42.7%) are on the rise as well making West Virginia 2nd in the nation for diabetes and 1st for hypertension. This social problem not only affects parents- it is directly affecting children with 16.4% of 2-4 year olds, 13% of 10-17 year olds, and 17.9% of high schoolers are also obese. Nutrition is the key to healthy lifestyles and communities and healthy communities equal healthy childhoods.

Café Appalachia seeks to build healthy families through not only teaching self-efficacy and sustainability to the families we service but by providing a nutritious farm-to-table restaurant for the general public. Café Appalachia is a pay-what-you-can community restaurant that builds a healthy and inclusive community. High quality and delicious meals are produced from local sources when available, served in a restaurant where everybody eats, regardless of means. The café is a One World Everybody Eats model where community café’s create more food security and ultimately provide a venue for greater community dialogue. As people come together to share meals, the conversation of social issues that are a direct result of poverty (like hunger and substance abuse) can be addressed, which also open doors for growth related to other community issues.  

West Virginia is four generations deep of families who are dependent upon welfare and social services to survive. Often times, these families live on the fringes of society. The concept of Café Appalachia is to provide these families with the opportunity to pull themselves up from poverty and provide them the ability to better themselves so that children who are watching them will learn the value of hard work. Research shows that socioeconomic barriers are the reason for social problems, such as substance abuse, as well as recidivism. Pollen8, Inc. believes that providing clients with education and employment are viable pieces to the success of the individual and the family unit.

A VISTA will be assigned to Café Appalachia and their services will be utilized to work as a liaison between the Director of the program and local restaurants in the surrounding communities. This individual will build relationships and awareness of the program to ensure that the local restaurant owners understand they will be hiring highly qualified individuals from a tested employment training program. The parent’s new skills will ensure they can keep their family intact and remain successful on the road to recovery.

Concept and Support

Café Appalachia will function as a Coffee House in the mornings where we will also sell pieces, halves, and whole farm-to-table, specialty quiches. There is not currently a coffee house in the City of South Charleston. In the afternoon, the space will be transformed to a donation based, pay-what-you-can model and therefore the meals are a “suggested” price based on portions. For example, a small plate, cup of soup, choice of salad, and desert would be a “suggested” price of $6-$8. A larger portion size would be $9-$11. This allows for the patron to decide what they can afford. However, those patrons that come to eat at the café who are more fortunate than others are welcome to donate as much for their meal as they’d like. The concept crosses-classes bringing them all together- the poor work and get training for better employment while the middle-upper class pay more when they can. People who can’t afford to eat can work on the farm or at the café or in the kitchen so they can get a free meal (Café Appalachian Bucks). 1 hour = 1 meal. To further sustain the project, Café Appalachia will provide family-style, farm-to-table meals on the weekends (reservation only) to our Black Box table. This unique twist to dining offers the customer an opportunity to sample healthy meals prepared by a guest chef with an element of surprise. Upon arrival, the guests will learn of their ingredients for their meal for the night displayed in a black box in the center of the table. The guest chef will then take the Black Box to the kitchen to prepare a spontaneous “surprise” meal made of local, fresh, ingredients. This concept derives from the lessons of culinary school and will be the overall theme of Café Appalachia- unorganized meals that are derived from the supply of the garden and the season of the year. Another funding stream for the locally grown food will be to sell the excess food to local restaurants within the communities. Lastly, as we grow it will be the intention of Café Appalachia to build a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program with a twist that will mirror Blue Apron and Home Chef. Community members will be able to join the CSA and receive healthy, farm-to-table ingredients and recipes created by our culinary program and provide from the farm and local (beef, chicken, oil, and seasoning) providers.

Measurable Outcomes (Detailed and Measurable)

The success of Café Appalachia will be measured through the retention of the training program participants, the success of employment of the parents (post-program), through the patronage and support of the general public, with feedback from the local community of restaurant owners. When the information from the data collected is compiled, the results will be utilized to identify deficiencies within the program and adjustments that may need to be made.


Participants will be admitted into the program through multiple outlets. They will be a parent of one of the social programs supported by Pollen8, Inc. or a referral from KISRA. Each participant will complete a pre survey to gauge their current education attainment and employment (if applicable) and asked their experience in the target areas of training from the program (agriculture, sustainability). These surveys will be compared to a post-survey taken upon the completion of the program that will not only gauge the skill-level of the participant but also their new found qualifications. Successful employment acquisition will also be tracked on all participants, post-program.


The success of the café can be gauged on the sells generated from the support of the community. This can be measured in the form of sales reports both monthly and annually.


At the end of the participation in the program, each participant will receive aid in finding gainful employment in a skill they have acquired during the program. The percentage of participants who were hired post-program will be tracked.

Sustainability of the Program

Café Appalachia will be a unique start-up program, however the sustainability of the program will come from the income generated from the café. The program will continue to search for grants to support and expand the program but the overhead of the program will come from patronage to the café. The program will also support itself because of the unique design due to the overhead being low because employees will be participants in the training program or volunteers from the community. The only compensated employees will be the Agro-Therapist, Farm Director, and Program Director of the Cafe.


The program will commence upon the completion of securing the initial start-up.