In July, The Food Group partnered with eight local organizations to host Community Connections: A Celebration of New Foods & Traditions in Minnesota.
This event evolved from the desire to create a space to gather, learn more about who our neighbors are, and converse with one other. From The Food Group’s perspective, this event incorporated many aspects of our program work: cultural awareness, providing a safe space to learn, community engagement, recipe sharing, and connecting partners with resources.
We knew we needed to reach out to others to help make this event successful. We worked with eight organizations from communities throughout the Twin Cities: CAPI USA, Division of Indian Work, Dream of Wild Health, International Institute of MN, Karen Organization of MN, Pillsbury United Communities, PRISM, and West African Family and Community Services.
It was incredible to plan an event that could broaden insights not just for our hunger relief partners, but create a space to allow interaction between neighbors as well. We arrived ready to engage with our “neighbors” not from program manager to client, but from one human to another. Looking around the room during the event, it was great to see all the conversations, kids running to the next table to sample the delicious food, and the connections that were being made.
The room was filled with the wonderful smell of spices from the many traditional food dishes that were shared. Everyone that came had the opportunity to sample some of the following dishes:
- Injera bread, goat meat, curry lentils, and rice from our Somali neighbors
- Fruit bread from our neighbors from Belarus
- Chicken & rice soup and vegetable & rice soup from our Karen neighbors
- Wild rice salad from our neighbors indigenous to Minnesota
- Fried plantains, black beans, rice, cassava, yucca, spinach with rice, and fufu from our neighbors from Ghana
Table Hosts were asked to provide feedback after the event and there certainly was a common theme:
“I had so much fun meeting new people. oh and the (insert name of delicious food here) was soo good! I grabbed the recipe so I can make it for my family.”
Another table Host, Ganga Acharya, from Brian Coyle Community Center, said of his experience that his favorite part was “learning about the weaving from the Karen Organization of MN. The fabric was beautiful and reminds me of a hat I have from Nepal.” Some of the weavers came to the event to showcase their work.
For some, table hosts were there as part of the English Language Learners class through the International Institute of MN. They need to have a certain number of hours of conversation each month, so this was a great way for them to talk about their native cultures, but also to expand their English-speaking skills.
If you missed the event this year, don’t worry. We are planning another event similar in 2019! Stay tuned.
We would like to thank our partners Allina Health and Otto Bremer Trust for their generous support of The Food Group’s Equity Program!
This post was written by Trica Leland, The Food Group’s Agency Relations Specialist and co-coordinator of the 2018 Community Connections event. Questions? Contact Trica.