Questions about:

 

The Eat for Equity model

What is an Eat for Equity?

The model of Eat for Equity is simple: make a themed meal, raise money for an organization in that part of the world, have a good time while doing it. This idea of connecting people through good food has blossomed into a successful fundraising tool, a vibrant community, and a dynamic movement. The Eat for Equity model of community-driven, participatory benefit dinners has proven to be scalable, replicable, and wildly popular.

Yeah, but what’s it like?

It’s Saturday night, and you show up at a stranger’s home – invited. You see a few friends and a crowd of people you’ve never met. You serve yourself a plate of local, homemade food. You give what you can, whether that’s $20, $50, or your time washing dishes or helping to cook. And you go home – with new connections and a full belly – knowing that you’ve helped raise thousands for the greater good.

What was the first Eat for Equity like?

It involved a big pot of jambalaya and over 100 people coming together.  The idea of Eat for Equity started in 2005 as a response to Hurricane Katrina, when our founders were living in a cooperative house at Boston University. One of our founders saw a recipe for jambalaya and thought out loud, “If we made a New Orleans-themed meal, would people in the house donate money for hurricane relief?”

The answer was, “Yes!,” and our founders decided to invite everyone they knew – friends, classmates, professors – and to make it a party, not just a dinner. The first Eat for Equity dinner drew a crowd of 100 students, professors, and professionals – folks who might not have otherwise connected, but were united for a greater cause.

Those initial Eat for Equity dinners continued to attract more people. We served up bigger pots of food and started to raise more money. The founders realized that this basic idea could be transferred to any cause, as a way to build a giving community around social change. And it was from there that Eat for Equity grew.

What makes Eat for Equity different?

It’s welcoming. Cost and culture is inclusive of all guests. We keep price point fairly low to keep the event affordable, and encourage return guests. We recommend suggesting a range from $15 – 20 for dinner, however, more is welcome. Every level of giving is considered generous.

It’s volunteer-run. Volunteers host the event, plan the event, cook for the event, promote the event, clean up after the event. They are the most important part of the organization, and share their talents as artists, homebrewers, musicians, cooks, excellent dish washers, or guest greeters.

It’s not your typical benefit dinner. The event is hosted out of people’s homes, which lend intimacy and personal connection to the event. We try to make as much food as possible from scratch, and we use local and organic foods when possible. On average, we feed guests at $2 per person overhead cost.

It’s more than dinner. The party continues after the dinner, and can include dancing, music, art, homebrew. Guests hear a short presentation (within a five-to-seven minute range) about the organization for which they’re raising money, ideally from a representative/volunteer of the organization. We have broad criteria for the organization selection – the organization should address inequities in health, environment, education/opportunity, or relief and sustainable development.

How much of the money goes to the benefitting organization?

We keep our overhead costs low and rely on the support of volunteers so that each person’s contribution has maximum impact. On average, 70% of the total money raised goes directly to the benefitting organization.

How much $$$ has Eat for Equity raised since it started?

It keeps going up and changes monthly, so check out the tally on our homepage! Thanks for helping us donate more to great organizations in your communities.

Events

Where do you have events?

Eat for Equity events are primarily hosted in private homes, although we’ve experimented with a food business incubator, a homeless shelter, and a restaurant. We’ve also been hosted by cooperative houses or groups of neighbors in the same apartment building hosting together.

How the —- do you fit 150 people into a house?

It’s tricky.  Eat for Equity is more like a bustling potluck than a sit-down formal. You’ll find guests standing up or sitting on stairs or window seats and whatever is available.We try to manage flow by creating separate stations for donations, drinks, food, and clean up. If we can do it in Minnesota in the winter months [considering that you need a separate room for big clunky boots and down coats], you can do it wherever you are.

How much does it cost?

Give what you can. We suggest a recommended donation of $20-$40 for each event, but every level of giving is considered generous.

How can I hear about events?

Join each branch’s email list by going to their branch page and subscribing. Like your local branch on Facebook, and follow them on twitter. And get more involved by emailing your local organizer and telling the organizer how you’d like to help.

Food

Do you provide catered food?

Eat for Equity acts as a private chef upon request to cater events in and around the Twin Cities. We prepare food on-site for hire in the host’s kitchen, serving local and organic food designed for your event and made from scratch with love. We’ve prepared a full-service wedding for 200 guests to an Indian feast for 30. If you’re interested in having Eat for Equity cater your event, please contact Emily Torgrimson at emtorg@eatforequity.org.

Do you work with chefs?

We work with anyone who loves food, from professional chefs to novice cooks.  One month, there may be three former pastry chefs in the kitchen whipping up a dozen apple pies. The next, there are recent college grads who’ve never made rice, who are suddenly cooking rice for hundreds.

Is all your food donated?

Some, but typically not all, of the food we serve has been donated. Our branches work with area businesses and farmers to [see our local partners on each branch page].

With the dollars we spend on food, we have an opportunity to support local businesses and food producers that contribute to an equitable and healthy food system. Branches purchase local produce, animal products, and other food. Through food, we can invest in our local community, collaborate with farmers, artists, benefiting organizations, and community organizers.

We believe that an equitable meal can also a cost-effective meal, so we keep food costs to $3 a person on average. We also get creative with the resources available – whether it’s choosing a recipe that uses a bounty of local produce at peak season or simply minimizing expensive ingredients.

Branches

Which cities currently have Eat for Equity branches?

We have branches in Minneapolis – Boston – Portland, Oregon – the Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri – Madison – Stamford, Connecticut – Washington, D.C. – Seattle – Phoenix – and the Bay Area.

How can we become an official Eat for Equity branch?

Inspired to start an Eat for Equity in your city? We want to support you. To support the sustainable growth of new branches, Eat for Equity is developing training programs and additional resources. Though branches have a lot of independence, wethey share core brand values to produce welcoming, volunteer-run, intimate, and enjoyable charity events.

To be an official Eat for Equity branch, we ask that organizers first:

  1. Contact Eat for Equity at emtorg@eatforequity.org
  2. Host three Eat for Equity events
  3. Keep the essential elements of Eat for Equity intact, but adapt them for your specific community. As long as your version of E4E is welcoming, volunteer-run, with good food and more, you’re living up to the Eat for Equity model.

What kind of help can we anticipate as an Eat for Equity branch?

Eat for Equity offers organizational, training, and administrative support to help grow strong, sustainable branches.

Administrative: Eat for Equity extends our 501(c)3 tax exempt status to all official branches, and we will file taxes annually on behalf of branches. We also take care of general liability insurance, and assist with charitable registration in each state.

Organizational: As a branch, you’ll have a branch webpage at eatforequity.org, branch email addresses, and a branch logo. Your branch will benefit from Eat for Equity’s national and local brand marketing and media outreach.

Technical Assistance: We offer startup training to share what we’ve learned about best practices and policies for making Eat for Equity branches strong.

Can we have our own page on the Eat for Equity website?

Yes, all official branches have their own page on the website. Your branch must continue to host quarterly (four) Eat for Equity events a year.

In the meantime, can we start an Eat for Equity Facebook page?

We welcome people to host one-time E4E-inspired events, but we can only provide administrative support if coordinators continuously host four or more events annually. Please connect with us so we can support you. We do encourage organizers to start Eat for Equity city-specific Facebook pages to promote your events.

Do we need to hold Eat for Equity events every month?

No, you do not need to hold Eat for Equity suppers each and every month. However, we ask that you continue to organize suppers at least on a quarterly basis each year after you become an official Eat for Equity branch.

  • Minneapolis