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Public Greens to open in November

Restaurant& microfarm will feed hungry kids, joggers alike

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A whole new kind of restaurant is about to hit the Monon in Broad Ripple in what has been, until a few months ago, a squatter-occupied empty building owned by the Indy Parks Department. Patachou Inc. founder Martha Hoover, whose company also operates Napolese, Petite Chou, and of course Cafe Patachou, is now using the space to start a philanthropic food revolution. Here's the pitch: an all-organic, upscale cafeteria-style restaurant that donates 100percent of its profits to feed hungry kids.

Hoover practices what she calls "enlightened capitalism," a philosophy that allows financial success and philanthropy to peacefully co-exist.

"It's okay to make money. It's not okay to be greedy, to be a pig," is how she sums up her business ethos. With a string of successful restaurants under her belt, Hoover's self-described, "conservative, slow-growth" style is paying off. And in the process, The Patachou Foundation was born.

The foundation's purpose is simple: to get food-insecure kids the meals and nutrition missing from their diets. In Indiana, about 22 percent of kids are food insecure. With 19.2 percent of Marion county residents living with food insecurity, the foundation's impact is certainly not small. Hoover also makes sure that her employees are also deeply involved with the foundation.

"Our employees deliver the food to the kids. They meet them and interact with the people they're helping," and that direct involvement is what continues to fuel the foundation's ongoing success.

But service workers need not worry: all employees will be paid in the cafeteria-style restaurant, from the line cooks to the farmer who grows the greens just across the Monon from the trail. After all the costs are covered, the remaining profits go to fund the foundation.

The restaurant-charity symbiosis is a beautiful thing to imagine, where in the capitalistic success of a business guarantees the betterment of a community. That is the payoff of Hoover's "enlightened capitalist" ideals.

She's also not slowing down personally, either. On the day that we met, I found her halfway through an Encyclopedia's worth of documents, only a few steps away from the restaurant with paper still on the windows and a deck that wasn't yet complete. Her collection of restaurants likely bring in enough capital to afford her someone to do this job while she sits on a beach somewhere, but that's not really Hoover's style. She has the future of the foundation planned out through 2020, with no plans of slowing down with either the restaurants or the foundation.

"One of my daughters always says to me, 'As long as we have more balls in the air than on the ground, we're doing okay.'"

Brand Manager Christina Pippen told us their weekly meal output is 300 meals during the school year and 500 during the summer. The figure is especially impressive considering the foundation only starting feeding meals last September. Soon, Public Greens will fuel the growth of those numbers (and even more kids).

So while you're searching for excuses to take yourself out for a little treat, Hoover has made it as easy as it can be for you to dine out guilt free: by using your dining dollars to feed hungry kids.

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