Pay-what-you-can deli opens in Meridian

Bread of Life Community Deli recently opened in the former Pot Belly Deli spot, 1535 W. Franklin Road, in Meridian.

This new deli breaks convention when it comes to a typical business model for running a restaurant. Most eateries, if not all, have set menu prices that aren’t open to negotiation, but at Bread of Life, customers pay what they want based on what they can afford.

“It’s important that everyone has a healthy, nutritious lunch every day. There’s no pain like hunger,” says owner Cameron McCown, who formerly owned Pot Belly Deli but changed the concept to a benevolent system in May.

His goals are to fight hunger, reduce food waste and build strong community ties. Bread of Life is not affiliated with any missions or non-profit organizations; McCown is just trying to pay it forward after working in the banking industry for five years.

McCown says most diners pay full market price for deli items (a typical sandwich is in the $6-$8 range), while some pay more and even volunteer their time. Around 20 percent of the diners pay less than market price or arrange a work/trade agreement to pay for meals by helping out around the deli.

Like at all restaurants, revenue from the deli helps to keep the doors open, and McCown donates his time and energy to local non-profit organizations such as the Meridian Food Bank.

The menu stays the standard deli course with lots of sandwiches, entrée-sized salads and daily scratch soups. It’s supplemented with weekly specials that reflect the seasons.

Expect to find clubs, cheesesteaks, Reubens and other specialty sandwiches. Try the La Ensenada, a spicy chicken sandwich made with pepper jack cheese and jalapeno mayonnaise.

Meatless sandwiches include the Dorado (made on whole-wheat bread with avocado, tomato, sprouts, cucumber, red onion and cream cheese) and an Italian-inspired veggie sandwich.

The deli offers free delivery (before noon) to businesses in the Meridian area.

Bread of Life Community Deli is open 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Phone: 887-1205.

(This is an excerpt of the Food Notes column from the Aug. 21 Scene magazine. Read the full column.)