Food For Thought projects profit

The lines at Honkin’ Huge Burritos are too long, everybody’s boycotting Taco Bell and vending-machine cellophane doesn’t fall into any of the four food groups. What’s a starving, health-conscious student to do? Head down to Food for Thought, PSU’s student-run, sustainability-oriented caf퀌�, located in Room 026 in the basement of Smith Memorial Student Union.

Occupying the former Multicultural Center space, Food for Thought serves up tasty vegan and vegetarian meals five days a week, as well as options for carnivores. They strive to use seasonal, locally-grown organic food, and student staff members prepare all meals from scratch.

The idea for Food for Thought started about three years ago with a group of students looking for a more environmentally-friendly option than eating in the school cafeteria. A student group formed and over the next two years they met with the administration, surveyed PSU students, drafted a business plan and began contacting local companies.


In Spring 2002 the Student Fee Committee approved funding for the creation of a student-run, sustainability-oriented caf퀌� and passed the second of two resolutions supporting such a business.

The Food for Thought Caf퀌� has been open since winter term 2003, and co-manager Cassidy Blackburn has high hopes for the coming year.

“Last year we lost money every day,” Blackburn said. “We got more organized over the summer – we did staff training, tidied things up. We want to make more food and serve people quicker.”

Last week Blackburn noted that Food for Thought was “on the borderline for operating in the black,” and projected that the caf퀌� would start turning a profit soon.

“Our goal is to pay a living wage” to our employees, Blackburn said. Currently the caf퀌� is overseen by an executive board of 10-12 faculty and student volunteers. Day-to-day operations are overseen by two co-managers and an all-student kitchen staff.

The caf퀌� is not only a good alternative to the PSU cafeteria, but also serves as a small-business model for the entire university. Since its inception, several University Studies inquiry classes and capstones have studied Food for Thought. Students from the School of Business have done studies of the caf퀌�’s “power model” – how staff members interact and resolve conflicts.

The caf퀌� was also nominated for the Spirit of Portland award, which recognizes individuals and organizations that have made important contributions to their communities.

Food for Thought plays host to a number of events throughtout the year. Thursday afternoons, SWARM, an on-campus student group which talks about sustainability issues, meet in the caf퀌�. Several events are planned this year around Earth Day and National Recycling Day, and Blackburn says as soon as new staff members are up to speed they will be doing more education and outreach.

In addition, the caf퀌� is always looking for volunteers to help with activities or behind the counter. Information on volunteering is available on their Web site,, or whenever the caf퀌� is open.

The Food for Thought Caf퀌� is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Meals range from $3.50 to $6 and include sandwiches, soups and salads. And you’ll always be able to justify that extra homemade chocolate-chip cookie from Food for Thought, because the climb up two flights of stairs to the outside world will definitely burn it off.

For more information, stop by the Food for Thought Caf퀌� in the basement of SMSU (Room 26), check out their Web site at or call (503) 725-9747.