This blog is the first of what we hope will be a series of features from our incredible volunteer base at Foco Cafe. We would like to feature their passion for feeding their community, and why each of them started volunteering with the Cafe. If you are a volunteer and would like to share your story, please email feedingourcommunityourselves@gmail.com with the subject line “Volunteer Blog Feature.”

The following feature comes from one of the Cafe’s most consistent volunteers, Colton Pinto.

Colton Pinto, A Foco Cafe Volunteer

I first became passionate about food systems issues while I was in college, and the reasoning was multifactorial. I was going through my own health challenges that required me to become much more conscious of the quality of the food I was eating, I was studying colton5sustainability, and I was also a Resident Assistant and student in a social justice-centered leadership program. Add up all of the pieces, and you get a passion for making well-grown, and well-prepared food available to all! I took part in an “Alternative Spring Break” at CSU in which my group traveled down to Denver to volunteer with the SAME (So All May Eat) Cafe, one of the first non-profit cafes and a partial inspiration to the FoCo Cafe. Ever since, I’ve been hooked on the concept of a pay-what-you-can restaurant model.

I found out about FoCo Cafe a couple of years ago “through the grapevine” of the Fort Collins non-profit community, and since then I have volunteered for every event I have been able to attend. Now that the Cafe is open, involvement has taken on an entirely new dimension, and colton1the opportunity to, for instance, chop up the vegetables that will be in the next day’s soup has been an absolute privilege. I volunteer every chance I get and have been able to see the large majority of what it takes to run a day at the cafe; from doing dishes, to wrapping silverware, to produce preparation, to mopping the floors, to digging through the trash in order to sort out the compost and recycling (that’s a fun one). I am often unable to volunteer during the 11am-2pm serving window, but I’ve had the pleasure of sharing many late night hours in the kitchen with Jeff when the Cafe needs help most. If I had to pick a “happy place” it would probably be the kitchen, but I’m hoping to continue my involvement with the Cafe this summer by getting my hands dirty in the garden that will be installed later this year!

I am a hard-core fan of the food that comes out of this kitchen; calling me a “foodie” might be a bit of an understatement. Given my passion for both nutrition and local food, there are very few, if any, places that I can go out to eat with a good conscience. However, I know I’m being served up colton2the real deal when Jeff cheerfully rattles off the soup ingredients and where they all came from. FoCo Cafe truly is the only joint in town where I know that the food was made with the same integrity I would uphold in my own kitchen.

Even better than the food though is the community! Some of my closest friends are Cafe volunteers, and I have had the opportunity to meet dozens of amazing people I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. Being passionate about issues of food access, agriculture, nutrition, and social justice can be incredibly draining in a culture that often just doesn’t seem to care, and it is remarkably refreshing to work alongside volunteers who share my passions. colton3There are few activities that make me happier than sharing recipes, discussing social problems, and geeking out about gardening whilst chopping a bowl of onions with friends.

The community certainly isn’t limited to the kitchen though. There are already quite a number of regulars stepping up to the serving bar, and the liveliness of the dining room on a busy day is intoxicating. The Cafe has also been able to reach out into other communities by serving as a space for meetings and even providing catering to City Council. I am excited to see the community that has already sprouted up around the FoCo Cafe and am eager to watch it serve the needs of more and more of the many Fort Collins citizens who are in need of a healthy meal and a supportive community.