about : FAQs
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 and a vibrant community.
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.
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?
Do you provide catered food?
Eat for Equity Catering promotes and models equitable and sustainable food sourcing, provides access to conscious food choices, and uses catering to support local nonprofit causes.
Eat for Equity Catering began as a project of Eat for Equity in 2013, with a wedding hosted on an island in the middle of Lake Minnetonka. In 2018, Eat for Equity incorporated Eat for Equity Catering as a separate specific benefit corporation.
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.
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. 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.
Which cities currently have Eat for Equity branches?
There is an Eat for Equity Minneapolis branch. There have been volunteer-run branches in the following cities:
Minneapolis, MN / Springfield, MO [Ozarks] / Madison, WI / Chicago, IL
Boston, MA / / Stamford, CT/ Washington, DC /
Portland, OR / Bay Area, CA / Seattle, WA / Phoenix, AZ
A cross-country tour in 2014 allowed Eat for Equity to connect with branch organizers, host a series of community gatherings, and learn about the challenges and strengths of local branches. We saw branches navigating capacity issues, like volunteer organizer transitions and local permitting issues. As we visited branches, we got to see our giving model in action and tested some of our assumptions about branches, growth, and sustainability.
In 2014, Eat for Equity gave branches the option of transitioning into grassroots dinners. All branches eventually transitioned into grassroots dinners, and we closed all official branches [except for Minneapolis]. For grassroots dinners, Eat for Equity shares resources like free cookbook downloads to people who want to host an Eat for Equity-inspired meal.
How can we become an official Eat for Equity branch?
We’ve transitioned away from the branch model, in favor of encouraging grassroots dinners. We hope you consider hosting dinners inspired by Eat for Equity, though at this time, those dinners can’t be part of an official branch.