Emily Torgrimson, at left, and Emily Rumsey prepare a community feast in Minneapolis, at a home near Lake Harriet. Eat for Equity meals are prepared by volunteers in homes throughout the Twin Cities area. Torgrimson, one of the founders, will be bringing the organization to Lanesboro this weekend to support Lanesboro Local, Inc.PHOTO COURTESY OF TRAVIS ANDERSON/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER  FILE
Emily Torgrimson, at left, and Emily Rumsey prepare a community feast in Minneapolis, at a home near Lake Harriet. Eat for Equity meals are prepared by volunteers in homes throughout the Twin Cities area. Torgrimson, one of the founders, will be bringing the organization to Lanesboro this weekend to support Lanesboro Local, Inc.


For the second consecutive year, the national organization Eat for Equity (E4E) will be making a stop in Lanesboro. This time, the non-profit entity will be hosting an event on Saturday, Feb. 16, and cooking up dinner with support from many local producers and consumers. As is the way of Eat for Equity, the money raised from the dinner's free-will donation will once again be given to Lanesboro Local, Inc., to sustain its continued efforts in providing a space for local producers to sell their products and raise awareness for the locally-grown food movement.

The dinner will once again be hosted by Peggy Hanson and Frank Wright in their home at 500 Calhoun Avenue South in Lanesboro with appetizers and drinks starting at 5:30 and the main dinner being served at 6:15, which will be followed by dessert.

Hanson is looking forward to E4E coming again, saying with a laugh, "Last year was kind of fun and nothing got broken!"

Eat for Equity, which was founded by former local Emily Torgrimson, has quickly gained national attention through its very clear grassroots perspective, addressing inequities in education, health and other socially important topics.

The organization appeared in a segment on NBC's Today Show on Thanksgiving Day in 2011. Torgrimson said the average number of people who attend E4E dinners has stayed constant, but national growth and interest in creating E4E branches elsewhere has expanded.

Besides Minneapolis, E4E has branches in Madison, Wis.; Stamford, Conn.; Washington, D.C.; Portland, Ore.; Boston and Springfield, Mo.

With an already strong E4E community, Torgrimson and other volunteers are working on starting up a national tour. This tour would visit each city, for a week, that already has a branch and focus on training organizers to be more successful. The tour would also reach other cities with the goal of building sustainable branches through media awareness and tapping into other media resources.

Torgrimson and her support staff from Minneapolis have been making the necessary preparation for the tour, including the complete gutting and renovation of a trailer that will become a mobile kitchen.

The process hasn't been going as smoothly as planned, but Torgrimson has found the experience to be rewarding. "It's a community building process and we've been able to engage more people through the building of it," she explained. "There are people who are more comfortable swinging hammers than slicing onions and that is an opportunity to engage those people."

That same mentality is set into the foundation of E4E.

"Our message is come as you are and give what you can," shared Torgrimson. "You might not be able to donate $100 to a black-tie event, but you might be able to host a party, or cook, or volunteer in some other way."

Torgrimson shared she has noticed people are get more excited about E4E when they realize they can give what they can whether that be in money, time or special talents.

"It makes it accessible and it also makes it fun."

It's not an uncommon occurrence to have people donate their home brews or volunteer their deejay skills for a dinner that focuses on building community and promoting worthy causes more than anything else. It is estimated that over 1,000 hours of volunteer time were put in for E4E events in 2012. Minneapolis alone brought in over 2,000 people to raise some $20,000 for numerous non-profit organizations. That same kind of generous support is what Torgrimson and her support staff is looking for in order to get the national tour going.

Most of the tour is being funded through individual contributions, but E4E has been helped significantly through an Allies grant from non-profit organization Oxfam International.

"Their mission really fits with our values with eating well and living sustainably," shared Torgrimson.

Corporate sponsorships are also being sought. Additional funding is still needed as well as the donation of a truck they can use to haul their mobile kitchen on the tour. They hope to be able to get the tour started in the spring, or as soon as possible. With their slight delay, they will be able to attend the upcoming Lanesboro E4E dinner, for which Torgrimson is appreciative.

Talking about last year's dinner, she shared, "One thing I was amazed by was the amount of great food donated in the middle of winter. It shows the values around community, food, giving and supporting exist here," she said.

Around 60 people attended last year's dinner, which is roughly 10 percent of the city. Torgrimson said they are planning for even more people on this return visit.

In Minneapolis, she has seen the power E4E has with connecting people who might not otherwise meet each other. "People crave connection," she stated. "When you share a meal, barriers break down and you get to know people in a way you might not have otherwise."

In a small town like Lanesboro, it can still have a positive effect on participants and organizations.

The main monetary beneficiary of the evening will be Lanesboro Local. Board member Loni Kemp shared that the money raised will improve Lanesboro Local by helping them get the word out about their Marketplace to producers who would like to sell and for shoppers to be more aware of fresh, local food in their neighborhood.

"We are thrilled to be doing it," said Kemp. "The dinner is a chance to get together and celebrate producers and consumers."

As one of those people who both produces and consumes local food, Hanson is eager to see people make new friends while also establishing food partnerships and sharing knowledge.

"There are people working really hard to provide better choices that are also good for the local economy," she shared. Hanson hopes Lanesboro Local will see increased support from both producers and consumers after the E4E dinner.

"I think people in Fillmore County understand living sustainably," Hanson continued, "but I think we should still raise public awareness about what we have in our own backyard."

Those goals fit right in with what E4E tries to facilitate with each of their non-profit organization partnerships. With increased awareness, people can take the initiative of ensuring the success of Lanesboro Local and ideas they stand for.

Torgrimson highlighted a fact that E4E looks for other ways they can provide for non-profit organizations in addition to donating the money they get from hosting dinners. "People can invest in a small way," she pointed out. The main thing is to "support the work happening in the community."

Anybody that is interested in attending the E4E dinner can. Suggested donations for farmers/students is $25 and $50 for local consumers. Additional donations are always welcome if one is really into food and supporting sustainable practices. However, the free-will donation that suits one's level of generosity is the one that is most strongly encouraged.

The menu will feature a large quantity of food from a number of local producers. The main course is a Chicken Pot Pie made from free-range chickens produced by Kitty Baker and Joni Finnegan. Included in the pot pie will be peas and shallots from Loni Kemp and roasted maple sweet potatoes from Finnegan. A salad will be made with black walnuts gathered and extracted by Frank Wright, butternut squash from Torgrimson's parents, and fresh pea shoots from Liz Belina's winter greenhouse. Wright also donated the cornmeal he grew and milled himself for the Handmade Cornmeal Bread. Dessert will feature strawberries from Wold's Strawberry Farm near Mabel and whipped cream from Kapper's Big Red Barn. They are also donating the milk. Seasonal craft beer from Fair State Brewing Cooperative in Minneapolis will also be available.

With the meal, people, and purpose all in place, Eat for Equity will again show that it is important to "eat, drink, do good and be merry."