A feast cooked from scratch is usually enough to impress hungry dinner party guests—especially when the menu includes hearth-baked pizzas, mountains of roasted veggies, and doughnuts made from local flour. For nonprofit group Eat for Equity, though, the food is just a prelude to the night ahead. Each themed dinner—complete with drinks, a DJ, and interesting company—benefits a different nonprofit and impacts social change by cultivating a culture of community and giving. With branches in Boston, Minneapolis, and Portland, now the movement is going on tour in an effort to become a national movement.
The evening festivities steer clear from the black-tie glitz and glamor typically associated to “benefit dinners” and hold true to their comfy, college roots. Dinners are hosted in a different house each month, continuing the welcoming environment that started the whole movement. The motto is just as simple: “Come as you are, give what you can.”
“Eat for Equity is a simple idea, but it’s really engaged,” says director and co-founder Emily Torgrimson, whose group was recently named a finalist in GOOD Maker’s International Women’s Day challenge. “For people in Minneapolis and other cities, it’s about food, giving, and community. People are craving community and ways to contribute.We’re entirely volunteer-run and we ask people to give 15 to 20 bucks, drinks, donations, time by cooking, opening up their homes, DJing, washing dishes, nominating organizations, anything. There are lots of opportunities to give.”
Torgrimson unintentionally founded the organization in 2006, while a senior at Boston University. Low on cash but eager to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina aid relief, Torgrimson invited 12 of her friends to her dinner party with a cause, where they feasted on Eat for Equity’s first meal: a glorious pot of jambalaya.
Since its inception in Boston, the organization has expanded to Minneapolis and Portland. Once a month, volunteers cook up a storm and open their homes for benefit dinners, each benefiting a different charity. Organizations are chosen from the areas of health, environment, education, and humanitarian aid. Each dinner draws between 50 and 150 guests and brings in an average of $1,500. Over the course of five years, the Minneapolis branch alone has raised $34,000 for local and global grassroots nonprofits like the American Refugee Committee, Oxfam America, the Oregon Food Bank, and more.
Eat for Equity is working on plans to branch out to 20 cities across the nation with a mobile kitchen tour that will kick off in Chicago. The plan is to plant chapters in cities including Seattle, Santa Cruz, and Phoenix to teach future organizers how to make Eat for Equity a sustainable movement across the nations. They hope to teach everything from the fundamentals of event planning to the best methods of cooking for a large party.
While Eat for Equity is centered around raising awareness for public good, Torgrimson’s focus is on building community. “Every month, you have a chance to see familiar faces, give, and build a great community,” she says. “Part of the welcoming spirit is that we keep our price really low. Even if you don’t know the organization and don’t know what to expect, it’s never too hard of an entrance.”
Photos courtesy of Emily Torgrimson