What if we could make a social movement with the exclusive focus of getting people to sit down and share food who normally would be across a table from each other? I am talking about putting a table out on the street with chairs and serving food for no cost to whoever would like to join.
Over the past several years a friend and I have experimented with hosting dinner parties for up to 30 people on a monthly basis. We invited a large cross segment of our friends and encouraged people to bring their own wine as well as making a small donation to cover the cost of dinner. These dinners have been great fun and given people a great opportunity to mingle and talk about many of pressing issues of our day. Several couples have met at our events and many people became great friends. However, the group was ultimately not very diverse and we weren’t doing much more than having a great evening with an extended group of friends. I am proposing something different.
We could acquire food and low to no cost from local farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants that would otherwise go to waste and cook a large vegetarian stew . We could practice radical inclusion and sit down with whoever would like to join. The event could happen outdoors where we can engage with those around us. There would be no money involved, but this is a not charity, soup kitchen or otherwise specifically for the underserved and in need of food. I would like to address the need of increasing compassion and empathy, of combating loneliness and alienation, of creating a civil society.
The benefit of sitting down and sharing food are enormous and I argue a fundamental building block of civil society. Outside of the holidays here in the United States it is rare to be forced into civil conversation with people who may hold widely differing views. This would provide just such an occasion. By making the food vegetarian it is both possible to reduce costs and be as inclusive as possible.