The Café @ 407’s mission is simple, if multifaceted: to help the community to “begin changing the culture and to empower individuals, families, and communities to embrace health, beauty, and happiness at any shape and size and to share a message of body celebration.”
The café was founded as a medium through which Ophelia’s Place, a local center for body image and eating disorders, could carry out its mission — the same as the one outlined above — and raise funds for its goals.
“Ophelia’s Place’s vision is our vision,” said café manager Dan Hamon. “We provide space in the café for community to build. We strive to provide a relationship with our local community through good coffee, healthy and delicious meals and desserts, local musicians and artists, and to provide a place to represent and share the people, products and produce that are grown locally. With every cup of coffee and biscotti, with every bowl of soup, you are supporting Ophelia’s Place and their vision, as well as supporting and nurturing the community and people around you.”
Part of the way the café supports and nurtures its customers is by providing a full, healthy menu chock full of locally grown produce, grains and other foodstuffs.
“We find that by buying local, we can foster community growth,” Hamon said. “Purchasing food that was grown and harvested locally keeps money circulating in our community. It makes community thrive and come alive.”
Buying locally also ensures that better quality produce makes its way to the customer.
“Locally-produced food is fresher than products that are shipped in trucks and stored on supermarket shelves for several days,” Hamon said. “Local produce can be higher in nutrients, while produce shipped from out of state typically has suffered severe nutrient loss during travel time. That is why Café @ 407 is attempting to support the community by buying local where we can.”
In order to further those efforts, the café is teaming up with the Community Growth Project, a community gardening effort in Camillus where local families have been tending to their own plots behind Christ Community Church on Warners Road.
“I moved here two years ago and started attending Christ Community, and I noticed there was a lot of land,” said Katie Holland. “It just seemed wasteful to me to have it all and not have it be used, so I kind of came up with the idea of making it useful to anyone who can’t grow their own food.”
With the help of fellow church member Jen Magnuson, Holland started the Community Growth Project last year. The program offered 12 by 12 plots to anyone interested in growing produce on the communal land. Holland said about 10 families signed up. This year, even more people are interested — including Ophelia’s Place and the Café @ 407.
“I visited the café, and I just fell in love with it, with what they do,” Holland said. “I could tell their food was fresh, and I inquired about where they were getting their food. I asked if this would be helpful and if they wanted to partner with us, and they said it was perfect timing, because they were looking to be more responsible with what comes out of their café. It’s a win-win.”
“We are grateful to become a part of their project, where we will be able to reap the harvest of their hard-working community, as well as work alongside them in this,” Hamon said. “We look forward to receiving and providing the benefits of healthy food to our supporting customers.”
Café workers will have their first official meeting with the Community Growth Project team on Tuesday, May 1 to discuss their role in the community gardening project.
In the meantime, Hamon is encouraging members of the community to get involved. Just stop by the café for more information about volunteering in the garden or in the café. Holland said the project is always looking for donations and volunteers; this year, in particular, the program is in need of a new and more permanent fencing system to keep out deer and other animals.
“This is a really important program,” Holland said. “If we know where our food comes from, we appreciate it more. We eat healthier. And growing together brings people together, too.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.