A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2021


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Food with Friends

By Tim Taylor

It’s hard to believe that three years of celebrating the neighborhood, monthly, pot-luck event called “Food with Friends” have already gone by. April 2009 marked the third year anniversary, and it just seems like yesterday when two Old Southwest residents’ Bob Clement and Tim Taylor were sitting on the sun porch trying to think of ways that they could give back to their community; as well as bring their community together. After an hour or so, they came up with what has now become a tradition within their historic neighborhood located in the city of Roanoke, VA.

The pair knew that if they involved food in their idea, they would have some interested parties, but like many social gatherings, people like to feel a part of an event and therefore one of the first questions raised is; “What can I/we bring?” So the pair decided that the event should be as inclusive as possible; therefore anyone attending would be requested to bring a food item to the gathering. The other request made would be that anyone attending would bring their favorite beverage. One last caveat to add to the gathering and to shake things up a bit was to add a theme, so the first Food with Friends event was touted as an Italian themed gathering. Every month that followed, had a different theme. There has been everything from Mexican, and Thai, to Irish, American and Vegetarian.

Clement and Taylor designed a very simple flyer with the date, time, address and the theme. On the flyer, they included their names, phone number and simple instructions to anyone that wanted to attend. The flyer was taken to the monthly neighborhood meeting and distributed door to door by several other neighbors. The neighborhood website also has the monthly event posted on the calendar and of course, the telephone and email is a great source of getting the word out about the next monthly gathering. Since the first Food with Friends, folks generally rely on the website, email and word of mouth.

Anyone attending was requested to bring an appetizer, entrée, side dish or dessert and their favorite beverage. Since Clement and Taylor were going to host the event in their home, they were responsible for the venue, paper products and utensils. By having those that attend the event bring the food items, and the host(s) providing the dwelling and paper products, this would be very cost effective and did not cause undue hardship on anyone. The first event drew nearly eighty residents and since then the average number of folks that attend is between thirty and fifty, but a few times there have been as many as one hundred, depending on the weather and other plans that neighbors have made.

People who hear about this incredible endeavor ask if there are ever too many items of one kind, and the simple answer is no. For whatever the reason, there always seems to be a good mix of each food item. This monthly event takes place in a different home and some times a single homeowner will host or a couple. The neighborhood organization is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit and many of the neighbors who attend this event belong to the group, but this event is open to all residents of Old Southwest. Since the neighborhood has a mixed use of residential, businesses and churches, there is a good combination of people who attend as well as the welcomed diversity in areas of race, gender, and ages.
This event has been so successful because people get an opportunity to share a meal with a neighbor, meet an old or new friend and network in ways that they might not otherwise be able to. Old Southwest has an eclectic array of people that come from both the blue and white collar worlds. For some it is their only social outlet, and for others it is an automatic calendar event that they would not miss.

There is no reason that other neighborhood communities could not have their own “Food with Friends” event because the cost is very minimal, the sense of community goes without saying and the food is extremely tasty. The Old Southwest neighborhood entered their “Food with Friends” event at the NUSA (Neighborhoods USA) conference held in Hampton, VA. in May of 2008 and placed 2nd in the nation for Best Neighborhood of the Year in the social revitalization category. Feel free to check us out:

Old Southwest   www.oldsouthwestinc.com


Sample of Flyer from 2008:


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