You say tomato dishes?

You say tomato dishes?

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

Rockford Urban Ministries (RUM) and local vegans are combining a little caring with a pinch of selflessness by trying to create a vegetarian restaurant.

Monday, Dec. 4 at Octane InterLounge, 124 N. Main St., the No Bones to Pick Committee held its third benefit in an attempt to open a vegetarian restaurant.

People who attended included RUM staff, individual vegans, members of Vegetarians in Motion and any others who want to help.

The committee wants to open a restaurant with an “open bucket” that serves the needy or anyone hungering for a vegan dish, said Stanley Campbell, executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and committee member.

“It’s a combination of folks who want to eat healthy and who want to share healthy eating with those less fortunate,” Campbell noted. “Increasingly, there are vegetarians who fall on hard times and find it difficult to make ends meet, as well as having vegans who are very conscientious and can’t find a restaurant to go to. It’ll be a mix, we hope. We hope that we have the businessman sit down with the homeless person.

“At first, we were thinking of doing a regular restaurant, but we found that more and more homeless people expressed a desire to have vegetarian food served. There doesn’t seem to be anything like it anywhere.”

But in Rockford, Campbell said a restaurant that has much “vegetarian fare” is Octane. “More restaurants are looking into it, thanks to head activist of Vegetarians in Motion,” he added.

He said the reason for the Octane holding the benefit is because “they have a big heart, and they really like the idea of using food as a way of conveying the idea of helping those less fortunate,” he said. “And the chef was real excited about trying some new recipes.”

Chef Jason Williams created vegetable lasagna and African groundnut stew entrees, as well as appetizers such as grilled Thai Veggie Kabobs with peppers, crimini mushrooms, sweet corn and vidalia onions.

The committee is still working on what selections will be included for the restaurant. Committee member Mary McNamara stated that the restaurant will let people try a variety of foods that are good for the body. “It will be a very revolving menu,” she said.

McNamara added the cost will be under $5 for the food, and the kitchen will be run by volunteers. She said the more community involvement, the better.

Before the opening, the committee wants to raise money from the benefits and donations that can be sent to RUM.

“Our goal is to raise $20,000,” Campbell said. “We hope a snowball effect will occur where we have more donors.”

The committee will hold at least one benefit a month until the goal is reached. Besides the Octane benefit, the committee has held and will hold fundraisers at churches, where they can use the kitchen to cook.

So far, the committee has raised $1,000 but hasn’t yet sought city help. They estimate the restaurant will cost $20,000, “if we get a real affordable place,” Campbell remarked.

The effort has been worked on for six months. “We’ve grown to have about 300 supporters,” he commented.

Send donations to Rockford Urban Ministries vegan restaurant, 623 Seventh St., Rockford, IL 61104, or call 964-7111 for more information.

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