White Dog Café Serves Good Food and Community Education

Judy Wicks, the founder and owner of White Dog Café, is a popular restaurant in Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania section that is well known for its commitment to social responsibility. Since opening in 1983, the White Dog has become a Philadelphia institution, locally and nationally known and valued for Wicks’ leadership in social and environmental activism, and just plain good cooking. White Dog’s mission serves four areas: customers, employees, community and nature. The business supports several local causes, including environmental responsibility (it was the first business in Pennsylvania to purchase 100% of their electricity from Wind Power Sources), paying a living wage to employees, and sourcing from local farms where meat and poultry are raised humanely. The café serves as a public education forum, hosting lectures and programs that address social issues, such as environmental protection and public education, and organizes hands-on formats and field trips, including a recent trip to New Orleans with 35 customers and staff who assisted in community service work after Hurricane Katrina. Wicks founded the The White Dog Café Foundation with a mission to help build a local living economy in the greater Philadelphia region. The Foundation is funded by 20% of White Dog Cafe profits, foundation grants and customers who contribute local community causes. “I joke that I’m not really a restaurant business, but use good food to lure innocent customers into social activism,” says Wicks. “By taking a stand and leading with our values, we’ve cultivated passionate, loyal customers and great word of mouth by people who feel emotionally connected to our business,” says Wicks. Wicks believes should not separate making a living from doing good. “I’ve built a very successful business, and garnered great community exposure, because I run my business for the benefit of the common good as opposed to pure profit,” says Wicks. “You can, in fact, use the market as a vehicle for serving humanity.”

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