How the New Arrivals Supper Club connects new neighbors
Food has the power to connect people. The New Arrivals Supper Club is using the power of food to build bridges. It is a series of dinners hosted by refugees and intended to connect communities.
Food brings people together physically in cafés, restaurants, and homes. Memories of shared foods and compliments on dishes can bring a smile to the faces of some. New flavors, textures, and recipes bring surprise and pleasure to others.
Food isn’t only pleasurable, but it tells a story. The ingredients, cooking styles, and flavors are related to the cultures and countries of the people who use them. When people travel, they bring those ingredients, cooking styles, and flavors with them. Many of the most popular American dishes, in fact, actually come from elsewhere.
With this in mind, the New Arrivals Supper Club is using the closeness and joy that food creates to cross barriers.
Today it’s a series of monthly dinners, which take part both in homes and in restaurants. The goal of the dinners is to empower and engage recently resettled refugees in their new communities. Refugees can cook for their new neighbors, show off the best dishes of their home countries, and earn money.
The New Arrivals Supper Club started in Los Angeles as a series of informal dinners. People would cook food from their countries and eat it with friends in their backyard. Today the club participates in large dinners and events, featuring delicious food from all over the world. Each dinner is different, with different locations and food being served each time. Anyone hoping to enjoy a plate of food can purchase a ticket for $50 or $75 (if they would also like wine).
The ticket fees go towards the families who prepare the food and the nonprofit organization, Miry’s List.
Miry’s List is a nonprofit focused on welcoming new refugees in their communities. They work through community volunteers using crowdsourcing and social media to connect people. Volunteers find someone to help or donate to. On the other hand, people who need help are connected with volunteers.
In the last two years, families have received over $85,000 from these dinners. It’s not all about the money, however. A large bonus of coming together for a meal is connecting with others. Participants feel that when someone new joins their table or cooks a meal, they invite others into a new world. Refugees invite their neighbors to experience and understand their cultures with each bite.
Attendees open doors with each conversation, compliment, and each bite they take.
Many refugees had no friends or connections when moving to America. For them, the New Arrivals Supper Club is an invitation to new relationships. Americans looking to help others are, similarly, connected with new friends. Sometimes this help is in the form of paying for a good meal. Sometimes this help is in the form of donating supplies for those who are starting over.
The pop-up dinners provided by the New Arrivals Supper Club are proving that food isn’t just food. Food is an invitation into another world. The flavors and textures of each meal expose a rich history.
The act of sitting down for a meal builds bridges between anyone willing to open their hearts.
By Akudo McGee
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