Building a Food Community, One Conversation at a Time

Every Monday night for six weeks Felicia Tiller and her boyfriend, Travis, talked about food with a dozen familiar strangers from the neighborhood. Th ey were there to participate in a pilot program for Menu for the Future, an experiment that grew out Sustainable Cleveland 2019. Th e idea is to inspire community dialogue around food issues by using the Northwest Earth Institute’s “Menu for the Future” course on a broad scale through faith communities, organizations, businesses or, in this case, neighbors gathered by Felicia’s friend from work.

“It was like a mini book club except we discussed how we eat and who we eat with—not just local food, but the role of food in our lives,” said Felicia. “Overall the experience made us feel more connected to the people in our community and it reminded us that every little thing you do is valid and important—even the simple habit of sitting down with your family to eat.”

Felicia was most surprised to learn that it wasn’t until the end of World War II that families shifted their eating habits and stopped growing their own food. Until then the bulk of an American’s food came from their communities and their gardens . This fact inspired her. “If they could grow it, why couldn’t I?”

So what’s changed in Felicia’s world as a result of those six Monday nights? She and her boyfriend committed to starting a balcony garden. “Originally, we were going to spend the time we would have been in the meeting each week on garden work, but instead it’s become a daily ritual: watering before bed so we don’t water our neighbors on their way to work in the morning and checking on sprouts every morning. We love watching our garden grow.”

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