Good Karma, a local restaurant serving Indian cuisine, has created a new way of helping those in need in the Auburn area.
Sunny Merchant, 23, grew up in Auburn and graduated this past May with a psychology degree from Ohio State University.
“My parents own Philly Connection, which is another food truck on campus,” Merchant said. “I wanted to do my own thing for college and wanted to grow on my own. But I had to come back because you just can’t stay away from Auburn for too long.”
After returning to Auburn, Merchant opened his own food truck — Good Karma.
Good Karma has had a food truck on Auburn’s campus since fall 2019 and opened a store location on South College Street in October 2019. On the second day of the storefront’s opening, Good Karma displayed a community board where people who were food insecure could get a free meal.
“There are pins on the board, and people can pull out a pin and redeem it for free rice and a drink,” Merchant said. “The staff had agreed to put 100% of the tip proceeds toward funding this community board. Customers can also donate $10 to pay for one pin on the board.”
Creating a community board was Merchant’s idea.
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The idea came after he saw something similar while visiting New York, he said.
“I saw an article about a place in New York that has a similar thing going,” Merchant said. “I wanted to give people something fulfilling and sustainable and thought to myself, ‘Why don’t we do this with our rice bowls?’”
Merchant said the community board is now a permanent part of the restaurant.
Good Karma’s community board is only at the storefront, however Merchant hopes to change this in the near future.
“I would love to take the community board concept to the food truck,” he said. “I just would have to talk to the people in charge of the food trucks on campus because we have contracts with them. I definitely will talk to them.”
Since it was placed, more customers have taken pins from the community board each week, but still not as many as he would like. Currently, one person takes a pin from the board each shift.
“I want to have at least 10–15 redemptions of our community board every day,” Merchant said.
Caleb Hunt, senior in international studies, has been working at the Good Karma storefront since January. He also said the first few weeks of the board were slow, but it has been picking up as time goes on.
“During the first few weeks of work, only a few people took a pin off of the board to redeem a meal,” Hunt said. “Now, usually one or two people take a pin each shift. It’s generally different people that take the pins off of the board. Not many people come regularly to use the community board.”
Merchant says that he wants people to understand Good Karma is a safe space that welcomes people from all walks of life.
“I started with Good Karma to bring people together and build community,” Merchant said. “That is the whole goal behind the restaurant.”
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