About a year ago The Welcome Church and the Office of Homeless Services teamed up to launch a new program, “Pay It Forward Philly.” It gives participating restaurants’ patrons an opportunity to pay a bit extra to help a fellow Philadelphian get a meal.

OHS and The Welcome Church have worked to secure business partners to help launch the program throughout the city. “Pay It Forward Philly” is now available at two locations: The Hart of Catering located at 2101 Sansom Street and Old Nelson’s Cafe at 1515 Arch Street.

Both locations offer a special menu from which people can “pay forward” a meal. Their menus have multiple items to choose from with a variety of prices.

How it works:

When someone buys a pay-it-forward meal, a sticky note is placed on the wall, which can later be redeemed for a free meal. Guests who redeem the free meals can then enjoy them in a dignified and respectful manner. “Pay It Forward Philly” not only helps support small businesses and fights food insecurity, it serves as a reminder of the importance of helping our neighbors in need.

Kevin Hart, owner of Hart of Catering, says he joined “Pay It Forward Philly” without hesitation. He explained, as a recovering addict, he has been hungry and experienced homelessness in the past and believes the program “is a dignified way for people to get something to eat. It has worked really well so far.” He adds greater support for “Pay It Forward Philly could help even more people who are living with hunger.

There are a few ways to support the program:
  • Stop by participating “Pay It Forward Philly” locations, Hart of Catering or Old Nelson’s Café and buy a pay-it-forward meal.
  • Make an online donation.
  • Spread the word about the program to family and friends.

In less than a year, the program has become more than just a way to reduce hunger and food insecurity according to The Reverend Violet Cucciniello Little, Pastor and Founder of The Welcome Church.

“In a world that is so divided, food brings us together,” she says. “Sharing food feeds us all! ‘Pay It Forward Philly’ creates a city-wide ‘banquet’ where everyone is invited to come to the table.”

Businesses that are interested in becoming a “Pay It Forward Philly” participating restaurant may email foodaccess@phila.gov to learn how to join the program.