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Great Food, People, and an Opportunity

Main Street Project

“Local, sustainable, agriculture, food access, community, food, farming, gardening…”

Words heard throughout the half-mile long stretch along Victoria Street in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul on Sunday, September 14. There were 250 tables consisting of nearly 2,000 people –a group of artists, chefs, gardeners, and community organizations gathered for CREATE: The Community Meal from Public Art Saint Paul by Seitu Jones. Seitu Jones, a local public artist was the inspiration behind the meal.

A wide variety of people from all different kinds of backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, levels of education were encouraged to share food stories and conversation about food access. The community meal consisted of all local foods, no more than 40 miles out of St.Paul. Bob Kell, Training Director for Main Street Project stated, “They called upon Main Street Project to provide the chicken that was the centerpiece of the plate.

Upon arriving, guests walked down the street to find the table they were assigned. What a sight to see, a half-mile long table full of food experts, community members, doctors, teachers, board members, journalists, volunteers, etc. – all with an interest in healthy, local food. The table volunteers welcomed guests and were a great asset to the meal and the conversations. They even served the food in choreographed movements!

A Grace by GE Patterson started off at the beginning of the meal. “This place where we sit has been fertile & fallow and before we were born it was what it might be again. It was: a field, a farm – for years without measure –mostly gone now though the trees are a sign things linger.”  Wonderful conversation starters to share our food stories and continue the conversation about food access.

The food was delicious, fresh, and local! The meal consisted of rice and beans, cornbread, collard greens, and a fresh salad. At the centerpiece, the Main Street Project’s chicken – the Honey-Ginger-Soy Chicken recipe.  Bob Kell reported, “The chickens had been delivered to Chef James Baker of SunnySide Café two days after processing. He proceeded to marinate them with a special honey ginger recipe that he developed and later roasted them for the meal.”

During the meal, there was conversation about food stories, food access, healthy eating, and commitments to action. “If we are serious about what we eat, we need to pay attention to where that food comes from. When we talk about our free-range chickens, most often we are referring to the farm and the new producers who raise them.  But there are also moments to talk about where those chickens end up…and the goodness they bring to the plate,” encouraged Bob Kell.

Participants were asked about their own personal food resolutions and how they might impact the community. “Many of my friends do not eat healthy or cook at home. I would love to have them over for a meal and talk about local and sustainable food. I would host a dinner party with local food,” Scott Holm, 25. Others described growing their own food and gardens or fighting against GMO’s, genetically modified organisms – petitioning the United States to label GMO’s.

As quickly as the deep conversations started, it seemed as if it were already time to go. The meal ended with A Closing by Soyini Guyton. “We depart, having been guests on this day. We give thanks, to all the elements: earth, wind, fire, and water for growing our food; having shared a table, good food, the company of good people, blessings from the good earth, we are eternally grateful.”

Such a great opportunity and experience at Create: The Community Meal. A sincere thanks to all the volunteers and community partners that could make such a great event happen in St. Paul.

In the words of Soyini Guyton, “We wish to never forget the healing power of food, community, and love. We go in peace.”

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