DINING WITH DIGNITY
Moon Rabbit Café puts community before cost.
WRITTEN BY JOEL LIPPERT
PHOTO BY TY O’NEIL
Shelley and Matthew Fisher, resident priests at the Reno Buddhist Center
Undoubtedly, food brings us together. It often allows us to feel and share the spirit of communitas like few things can. The Reno-Tahoe area is home to many places where this happens regularly, perhaps even in your own backyard. But every two months, on a Saturday, the Reno Buddhist Center opens its doors and serves up a special dinner and gathering.
The Moon Rabbit Café’s pay-what-you-can, bimonthly community dinners create opportunities to dine with friends — and make a few new ones. The suggested donation for each meal is $5, just to cover food costs, but $10 or more will cover another’s meal. If you can’t pay that, volunteer and you’ll be fed. The majority of the proceeds that MRC makes over and above meal costs goes toward funding the next dinner (with the rest going back into the temple).
Appetite for connection
Though it’s held in the basement of the Buddhist center, only about half of Moon Rabbit’s volunteers are associated with it, and this is not a Buddhist event. While some volunteers help with prep and setup, it isn’t unusual for about 40 volunteers to be on hand to ensure that each of the 200 to 350 patrons they regularly serve receives the highest quality food and service.
And indeed the meal is truly of high quality. MRC organizers and volunteers’ philosophy includes a commitment to sourcing ingredients as best they can from the local area first. Each dinner is prepared by a guest chef, usually one from a local restaurant or catering service; together with a committee comprised of RBC Reverends Shelley and Matthew Fisher and a few volunteers, they plan the set menus in advance, usually around fun or seasonal themes. Dinners each consist of a starter, entrée, dessert, and beverage service. Though the team can’t always provide vegan options, it does offer vegetarian ones.
The Fishers try to say hello to every patron, and they, like their diverse corps of volunteers, give of themselves much like the rabbit in the Buddhist story who resolves to practice charity on the night of the full moon, which inspired the name of the café. On the MRC’s Facebook page, the group states that its “highest goal is to serve our community in deep compassion” and to be “a force for positive change.”
Certainly the patrons and volunteers leave after dinner feeling that Moon Rabbit Café has been successful in that endeavor, with both their appetites and collective sense of community satiated for the evening.
Joel Lippert is a member and past volunteer of Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno, serves as vice president for On Common Ground – Reno, and is co-founder of the upcoming Truckee Meadows Seed Alliance, our area’s first formal seed-sharing library. For details, visit Ocgreno.org.
The next scheduled Moon Rabbit Café dinner takes place Dec. 2. For details about times, visit the Facebook page.