Maggie Kane, the founder of A Place at the Table, the Triangle’s only pay-what-you-can cafe, will appear on NBC’s Today Show on Monday. Today producers recently visited Raleigh and spent a full day filming at A Place at the Table—observing how the system works, sitting at the community table and talking to people, and shadowing Kane and her staff—as well as several hours interviewing Kane.
Kane was inspired to bring the concept, which she learned about through the nonprofit One World Everybody Eats, to Raleigh based on her work with people experiencing homelessness. She wanted to create a safe space where people who were hungry—for food or community—could choose what they wanted to eat from a wholesome, scratch-made menu and dine with dignity, regardless of means.
Diners have the option to pay for their meal monetarily, by volunteering, or some combination, and those with more means can opt to pay beyond the suggested price to help offset the cost for someone else or to purchase meal tokens to give to others. Kane estimates that, to date, A Place at the Table has served thirty-four thousand people, given out sixty-seven hundred meals, counted twenty-two thousand “pay it forward” transactions equaling $110,000, and racked up nineteen thousand volunteer hours.
Kane has also been recognized for her work with A Place at the Table locally, receiving N.C. State’s Outstanding Young Alumna award and INDY Week’s Food Triangle award, both this year. On what this kind of national exposure means for A Place at the Table, Kane says it’s huge.
“I look back to a year ago, and I never thought that one, A Place at the Table would be this successful, and that two, The Today Show would be coming out. No way in a million years,” Kane says. “For me, it’s insane to think that the community has truly supported us to get to this place. The fact that The Today Show wants to come means we’re doing something right. We’re living out our mission, and we’re true, genuine, and authentic to doing what we’re doing. It’s really neat for me to see that and to get that for A Place at the Table.”
Kane hopes that the Today segment shines a spotlight not only on A Place at the Table but on the pay-what-you-can cafe model at large, and that it’ll inspire other cities to explore the concept. Kane says that she would love to be able to share what she and her team have learned over the last four years.
True to her character, Kane says she isn’t sure if she’ll be able to watch herself on television when the segment airs tomorrow morning.
“I’m a behind-the-scenes-person,” she says. “It’s humbling that a ton of people have been able to hear my story—and actually consider it a story and be excited about it. It’s humbling how many people have supported me and my whole journey with this. It makes me in so much awe of the team I have, the staff I have, the community around me. I didn’t do this alone and I won’t be doing it alone.”