BOZEMAN, Mont. - "Once a week, sometimes more" said Hope McClellan, about how many times a week she, her parents and two kids eat at the Community Cafe.
As a single mom, McClellan can't afford to take her kids to a restaurant. So they come to the Community Cafe instead.
"I don't have a lot of money, and it allows the family to get out, eat together" she said.
Since opening their doors nearly a year ago, the cafe has served more than 26,000 free meals- 3,000 of those to children. It serves the public seven days a week from 5 to 7 pm.
And they've established a loyal customer base.
"They enjoy it. They really enjoy coming" said mom Jamie Williams.
Williams brings her kids, niece and nephews there once a week. She said they love it so much, her son Samuel chose to celebrate his birthday there last September.
"I picked to come here 'cause I never came here for my birthday before" Samuel said. "I really wanted to have something nice to do here."
The Gallatin Valley Food Bank, which runs the cafe, said it's a challenge to serve so many people- because they can't actually cook the food at the restaurant.
"Right now, all of our food is being prepared over at the Gallatin Valley Food Bank and then we transport it on a nightly basis" said Lori Christenson, Program Manager at the Food Bank.
She said they're hoping to remodel the gutted kitchen.
"Here would be sort of our serving area" she said, gesturing to a bare, open space in the kitchen. "We'll be having, plating our hot foods here."
Christenson said they hope to get enough community donations in to get the kitchen up and running. So far, she said a few local businesses have donated commercial appliances. But they'll need to raise money, too.
After the kitchen is in, Christenson said they'll be able to offer more programs- like nutrition classes- and use it for their summer lunch program.
She also said the cafe would expand their menu items, so families like the Williams and McClellans can continue to enjoy family nights out.
"The fact that we can come in and enjoy a meal and everybody treat you so good- it's nice" Williams said.
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