Neighbors Shut Down Restaurant’s Free Lunches For Homeless

Every Thursday, Cherrie Buckley has been opening the doors of her Main Street business, the Buttery Shelf Eatery, to those who were less fortunate in Lafayette, Indiana, and serving them a free meal. But not everyone, including some other business owners, has commended Buckley for her generosity.

Jerry Kalal, the owner of K. Dee’s Coffee and Roasting Co., said the free lunches were scaring customers away, costing him hundreds of dollars in lost sales and leading to fights and littering in the street. Makenzie Kus, whose Something Blue Bakery is also on Main Street, said that there was “cursing and fights” among the Buttery Shelf patrons that made her feel “uneasy” as her cliental consists most of “moms who regularly bring their children.” As of September 28, the Buttery Shelf Eatery is no longer serving free lunches.

As Kalal said to,“I said, ‘You do this little soup kitchen, but you’re closing down all the other businesses. I’m not against helping people, but when it hurts my building and other businesses, I go off.”

Lafayette police officers had received a number of complaints (one from K. Dee’s Coffee and Roasting Co.) about those lining up for lunch at the Buttery Shelf. As things turn out, their most severe “offense” was blocking traffic. One caller claimed that Buttery Shelf Eatery patrons were doing drugs behind the restaurant; on investigating, officers said they were actually “just standing there waiting for the place to open.”

Buckley’s commitment to helping those in need is longstanding. In 1995, she started Seeds of Hope Community Pantry and Clothes Closet; this expanded into Seeds of Hope Community Ministries, a nondenominational effort that was partially aimed at assisting the homeless and mentally ill. The Buttery Shelf Eatery also makes a habit of employing those who have had such challenges.

A “Not in My Neighborhood” Attitude

The unspoken reason that Buckley ended the free lunches was, as Think Progress observes, that people are glad to talk about how important it is to help the homeless and the hungry so long as this does not occur in their own vincinity. Kalal and other business owners in effect bullied Buckley into ending the free lunches. This is much like some communities, such as Los Angeles and Orlando, who are considering (or have passed) restrictions on feeding the homeless.

Other Indiana organizations that feed the hungry have encountered a similar attitude. Food Finders Food Bank is an umbrella organization that provides food to more than 160 member agencies in 16 Indiana counties; it will move 6.5 million pounds of food this year and has been looking for a new, larger location. Katy Bunder, Food Finders’ executive director, said that property owners or businesses have discouraged her from taking several sites as they “aren’t keen on the idea of food trucks coming and going or long lines of the food-insecure milling about.”

“I think the stigma is that a food bank gives a negative message,” Bunder said. “So if you have it on your street, it tells you that the area isn’t as economically viable as it once was.”

The End of Free Lunches in Lafayette

Some other businesses regret the end of the free lunches. Ivan Brumbaugh, owner of Main Street Cheese and Wine, said that he “just hated to see the Thursdays shut down” and “that one person in this town or on this block has enough power to shut things down or to make it so rough (that) people are afraid to do it.”

The end of free lunches at the Buttery Shelf Eatery has occurred at a time when many in Indiana are going hungry. 13.5 percent of the state’s households are considered “food insecure“; nationwide, the number is 14.5 percent, a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found. In Tippecanoe County where Lafayette is located, 16.9 percent of residents — 28,800 people — are considered food insecure.

During the 2008 recession, local food pantries found that more people were showing up at their doors, says Jennifer Layton, executive director of Lafayette Transitional Housing Center. In just the past two fiscal years, though, twice the number of people have been in need of food donations. 8,513 people were served from October 2011 to December 2012; in the same time period in the following year, 15,754 people were served.

While many seeking food donations are homeless, jobless or unable to work, there are also “families where maybe both parents have bachelor’s degrees but are trying to find jobs and are overqualified, and this is a gap they’re trying to fill,” as Rachel Ravellette, a volunteer at the Elmwood Church food pantry, says. “What a lot of people don’t realize is how many people don’t realize where their next meal is coming from.”

Once, some of them knew where they could get lunch in Lafayette in Thursdays — but not anymore.

Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

no one should EVER go hungry

Lin M
Lin M4 years ago

Wouldn't it have been nice if all the places would have taken that one day, a few hours to do the same thing on the same day? Maybe with more choices, no one place would have been so congested.

Paula Stiles
Paula Stiles4 years ago

Perhaps Mr. Kalal and his fellow complainers need to see their business go elsewhere. Vote with your feet, people. You don't need to patronize jerks. There are plenty of other businesses you can go to.

Karen R.
Karen Ryan4 years ago

I am a grocery cashier. Recently a customer told me she lost her job over a year ago, and she lost her apartment when she couldn't get another job. She has been living in her car for over a year. She then asked me "You wouldn't know from looking at me, would you?" Not every homeless person looks like your idea of a street person, and many people who work full time can't afford food. I see many customers paying with food stamps including, to our shame, many active duty military in uniform. Hunger and food insecurity are as real to the 1% as the tooth fairy.

Kanako I.
Kanako I4 years ago

There should have a way to ensure security and keep free lunch.

John H.
John H4 years ago

Russ L's comments on overpopulation would make a great thread, very volatile subject matter. Especially since China has recently suggested changing policy on how many children a couple can have. Sorry for going off-subject...

Thomas Myers
Thomas Myers4 years ago

Just emailed K. Dee's Coffee and Roasting Co. and let them know how I feel about the kind of pathetic trash that would put a kibosh on charity.

Scott haakon
Scott haakon4 years ago

Nope It is necessary to have solutions in total. But the will in these times of uncertainty is not there. The real solution is housing and service for those with mental or health problems. But where?
Dispersement may be a temporary solution as is new designs for housing perhaps in the desert where solar communities could be developed where housing could be built cheaply. there out of sight experimental housing developments that normally would not be allowed in Urban areas can be developed.

Gysele van Santen

much respect to Cherrie Buckley. people shouldn't have to go hungry. as for the other businesses, time will tell--because what you put out in the universe, you get back. it's the law of karma.