Learn from the College Kids! How to Start a Dinner Club

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A group of Selkirk College students proves the benefits of breaking bread extend far beyond nutrition.

We all know that eating together as a family is great for kids. In fact, when we think of the benefits of family meals, the benefits to children typically come to mind. But the truth is, eating together is just as important for adults as it is for kids. Recently, we came across an inspiring group of college kids in Nelson BC who reminded us of this.  Motivated to improve their eating and living habits, they started an on-campus dinner club, which has turned out to be the easiest (and tastiest!) way for this group of adults to receive the social support they need.

The Tenth Street Food Club started at Selkirk College over a year ago.  Each week, a group of students, faculty and community guests gather to cook and eat together, exchange recipes, and share tips on wellness. It’s become a supportive network that ensures students fuel their minds with healthy food choices, and not let their diets take a back seat to stressors such as homework, exams, friends, finances or job uncertainty. We reached out to Selkirk Counsellor, Robin Higgins, who says the club is "building a culture of belonging and well-being one meal at a time.” 

Though the motivation for this group was organic, the club has been able to receive grant funding from the Healthy Minds/Healthy Campuses Initiative, dedicated to promoting mental health and reducing substance abuse among college students. Donations and volunteer cooking instruction from community sponsors help sustain the program.

Several spin-offs of The Tenth Street Food Club prove that it’s worth imitating! Last year the Castlegar campus started a dinner club of their own, with an emphasis on cooking on a budget. In January, another group called the Dinner Basket Conversations launched, where people cook and eat together during a facilitated discussion on substance abuse and safe partying. Most recently, a group of students at Crawford Bay started a Lemony Lentil Soup dinner party of their own, reflecting on what schools, colleges and communities can do to encourage healthy relationships with substances. One dinner guest summed up the event fittingly, saying, “Good healthy food naturally connects to healthy conversation.” 

The fact is, sharing meals is an invaluable opportunity to share ideas on issues that matter—and that’s truly an ageless benefit. If you’re interested in starting your own dinner club, here are a few tips to help you get started:

Find Members: Fellow diners don’t necessarily have to be friends, or friends of friends. If the search within your social circle hasn’t found any new members, consider spreading the word to strangers by advertising on community boards, at the library, church or gym. Aim for around 10 members (any bigger a party may become too burdensome to host).

Choose a format: Before you get started, you’ll need to decide whether to charge a membership fee or a per meal fee that covers the cost of ingredients and tableware, or to rotate the cooking schedule among members.

Set a Date: Set the schedule in advance so members can commit it to their calendars, and pick a location. You may want to meet weekly or monthly depending on the availability of the dinner club members.

Choose Recipes: Ask members to share their five favourite dishes, or new ‘wish list’ ideas. As a group, select the recipes for each week or consider a theme such as cooking local or ethnic cuisine.

Buy Groceries: Decide who will be responsible for buying the ingredients. It could be the host if you decide to rotate the hosting or your club could designate one shopper—just be sure to give them a list of ingredients!

Get Cookin’: Whether you rotate the cooking schedule among 1, 2 or 3 participants each week, or among the entire group, be sure there’s enough kitchen equipment (and space in the chosen location) for everyone to take on a task, whether it’s chopping, cooking, or cleaning!

Happy table talk! 

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  • This is great and thank you for profiling this amazing club. One important piece to consider is the discussion topics. What makes the Dinner Club and Dinner Basket programs so impactful is that they include discussion questions about health, wellness (both mental and physical) and people's relationships with substances. These help facilitate deep conversations that contribute to bonding the community. Just my two cents for those considering starting one of these groups!

    Catriona 22 July 2014, at 9:53 am