Jeff Bridges donates to Stone Soup Cafe in Greenfield

Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GREENFIELD — On the screen he has memorably stood up to nihilists in the “The Big Lebowski” and outlaws in “True Grit,” donned a glowing track suit for the 1982 cult classic “Tron,” and battled Robert Downey Jr. in the blockbuster first installment of the current “Iron Man” film franchise.

In a quieter role, Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges has been involved with the local Zen community and hunger work, and on Tuesday Stone Soup Cafe organizers announced Bridges has promised up to $30,000 over three years to leverage donations for the local soup kitchen.

Ari Pliskin, the cafe’s executive director, said Bridges has pledged up to $10,000 per year over three years as a matching grant, matching any donations, including door receipts, dollar-for-dollar.

The Stone Soup Cafe serves lunch every Saturday at noon in the All Souls Church Unitarian-Universalist, at the corner of Hope and Main streets.

As the only prepared community meal available on weekends, Pliskin said, the cafe hopes to expand to Sunday.

In its original incarnation the Stone Soup Cafe was the Montague Farm Cafe, established by Bernie Glassman’s Zen Peacemakers at the Montague Farm in 2010, and eventually moved to its less remote location on Main Street.

Bridges and Glassman are long-time acquaintances and co-wrote the New York Times best seller “The Dude and the Zen Master,” published in January.

Bridges’ involvement with the project is not new; Pliskin said he donated to help start the original cafe in Montague and his latest donation will help the Greenfield cafe grow.

Pliskin took over management of the cafe last year, and it is now a stand-alone operation, no longer under the umbrella of the Zen Peacemakers, run by himself and a board of directors.

The cafe operates on a pay-what-you-can basis, with many ingredients donated through Just Roots, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Community Action’s Center for Self-Reliance, and local beverage purveyors Pierce Brothers Coffee Roasters and Katalyst Kombucha.

“We call it a cafe for a reason,” Pliskin wrote. “The vibe is engaging and many people who can otherwise afford to eat out come for the food, live music or community and contribute to the pay-what-you-can box. These contributions make it possible for us to provide high-quality food and service to all guests, regardless of means.” In addition to food, the cafe has featured such additions as pay-what-you-can acupuncture and a nonviolence class, and live music is on the menu every last Saturday of the month.

Food is prepared by volunteer cooks, including Isadora Sarto, a board member and Johnson and Wales-educated chef whose credits include The Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Extreme Chef” programs.

Pliskin said donations from diners cover the food costs, but not the work involved or the rent.

The program is not sustainable on a purely volunteer basis, and paid staff positions will allow the program to build and grow without key volunteers burning out or having to take other jobs.

Kick-starting the fundraising effort and to build awareness and support for hunger relief, Stone Soup will host a screening of “A Place at the Table,” a 2012 documentary starring Bridges, on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Greenfield Garden Cinema. A panel discussion on the cafe, featuring Glassman, Sarto and Pliskin, will follow the screening.

Tickets are $8 and may be purchased at the door.

Donations can be made in person — diners may donate to help cover the cost of their meal and the meals of those who can’t afford to — by credit card on the cafe’s website: or by mail, addressed to Stone Soup Café, P.O. Box 542, Greenfield, MA 01302.


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