Community Dinners at Hope House & Gardens, a new VEJ program for 2019, are proving to be popular with both neighbors and visitors to the neighborhood.
Both Community Dinners on the 2019 calendar so far (May and June) filled up to capacity.
"People seem to really like the Community Dinner program, from the food to the guests to the setting to the speakers," said VEJ executive director BT Irwin. "That's really exciting because it means people are finding something that helps them make Earth justice a little more part of their lives, relationships, and work."
VEJ garden program leader L'Oreal Hawkes-Williams came up with the idea for Community Dinners and manages the program.
Each Community Dinner takes place at VEJ's Hope House & Gardens at James T. Hope Park in northwest Detroit. A local chef prepares a meal using as many ingredients as he or she can from VEJ's neighborhood garden and other neighborhood sources. A speaker brings a discussion topic that relates to VEJ's Earth justice mission, usually relating it to the people who live in the Hope Park neighborhood itself.
At the first Community Dinner in May, Tommie Obioha of Detroit Sustainability Partners gave a talk on the City of Detroit's sustainability program for residents.
In June, Shakara Tyler of Michigan State University's Regional Food Policy center led a discussion on African American agriculture in urban centers like Detroit.
"We are blessed to have a donor who made this entire program possible, from the hours L'Oreal and our staff put into to organizing it, down to the honorarium we give the presenter and what we pay the local chefs to prepare the meal," said Irwin.
Along with Eco-Eating Tours, hosting the neighborhood First Fridays Film Series, the Organic Sustainable Gardening program, Wonder Walks, and other programs, Community Dinners are an important part of how VEJ is growing a community around its mission of "prayer, education, and action for Earth."
"We hope people can see what we're up to here," said Irwin. "Our most important work at VEJ is growing a community of people who are from different backgrounds, but who come together to pray, learn, and take action for Earth justice. And nothing is more important to forming a community than breaking bread together. That's what this is all about."
The next Community Dinner takes place on Sunday, July 7, and will feature a discussion on the "interfaith table." Sign up here.