Throughout the summer of 2017, Youth Farms’ Hawthorne Community Organizer Marcus Kar worked with a cadre of North Minneapolis organizations including Appetite for Change, Northside Fresh Coalition and West Broadway Business & Area Coalition, as well as North Minneapolis residents to combine resources and talent around a series of community events focused on healthy eating, food access and creative solutions to public safety. This inclusive dinner series, supported by the City of Minneapolis Public Safety Initiative, named The BIG Dinner Party by Youth Farmers in North Minneapolis used produce grown locally by Youth Farmers and local gardeners to break bread with thousands of North Minneapolis residents at community gatherings throughout the summer, to celebrate community, healthy foods, and active living in North Minneapolis.

In addition to food, the BIG Dinner Party actively utilized art and music as gathering and engagement tools. Musician/Organizer Marcus Kar led an African Drumming workshop focused on Djembe during the dinners. Youth Farm also worked with Soul Tools Entertainment to help document the happenings throughout the summer and fall in association with The BIG Dinner Party, culminating in a soon to be released short film. As the summer progressed into fall, the project, originally conceived as a series of 3 stand alone dinners, morphed into a project that utilized community and organizational partnerships to “bring” the BIG Dinner Party project to 7 different events and public gatherings across North Minneapolis with food, art, music, and engagement around public safety.

While the events have ended, The BIG Dinner Party work continues on. Marcus Kar will be releasing an EP with Youth Farmers and local hip hop artists highlighting many of the themes of the project. Artist Brandon Brown of Onyx Cycles and a group of Youth Farmers will be finishing their solar powered bike which will be utilized for neighborhood food distribution in 2018, and Youth Farm will be releasing the results from our community surveys around health and food access over the coming months.

The BIG Dinner Party is just beginning. What started as an idea about hosting community dinners and community engagement, has become a central part of Youth Farm’s way to engage youth in North Minneapolis in the real day to day work of food justice. Stay tuned for more in the coming months.