Give a Meal with a Purpose

Posted on December 14, 2017 by Parita Patel

Are you trying to identify a great gift for your food-crazed friends while also trying to figure out how the holiday season snuck up on you?

While gift-giving shows you’ve thought about someone, getting the gift right can be challenging, and exchanging shopping lists doesn’t reflect a lot of thought. When gift giving feels overwhelming rather than festive, gathering around a meal can be a thoughtful, accessible alternative.

For me, sharing a meal also has the uncanny ability to bring us together, to create a sense of community, and to deepen friendships. When we eat together, I believe we’re sharing something truly greater than just a meal. We’re cultivating meaningful relationships.

Over the past year, I’ve visited with dozens of organizations on the west coast that are unleashing the power of community to solve our country’s toughest problems. Many of these visits have included discussions over meals, and many of those discussions have taken place at remarkable social enterprises—that is, organizations combatting a social problem using the structure and incentives of a business. In the spirit of this season, I want to share some delicious ideas for a gift or meal with a purpose.

Three Ways to Give Gifts with a Purpose

Based in Seattle, FareStart provides a dining experience that is both memorable and meaningful. A popular working lunch destination, FareStart operates several restaurants and cafés that train individuals with barriers to employment to get the skills they need for a career in the foodservice industry. There’s a lot to love about FareStart restaurants—from their weekly Guest Chef Night, to their training programs for their employees, to their food! And, FareStart isn’t doing their groundbreaking work alone. Like most social enterprises, you are the key ingredient. The next time you’re looking for a place for a lunch meeting or engaging in a conversation with a friend, client, or family member in Seattle, visit a FareStart restaurant or café.

Next up, Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries. Homegirl Café serves farm-to-table breakfast and lunch featuring Latino flavors with a healthy, contemporary twist, while Homeboy Bakery produces a variety of artisan and commercial breads and rolls. These social enterprises offer job training, support, and a real sense of community to young men and women formerly in gangs and previously incarcerated, providing employment in, among other areas, catering, baking, and restaurant management. While Homeboy businesses help individuals transcend the cycle of poverty and violence, your patronage makes it all possible. When you visit one of their cafés, hire their catering services or, visit Homeboy Café & Bakery at LAX, you’re helping change local communities for the better. Of course, if you want to impart something truly special and memorable for friends or family, you can bring Homeboy food and merchandise to them, sharing the gift of personal transformation—and, of course, one-of-a-kind food.

If you’re a coffee purist, Central City Coffee based in Portland, Oregon, sources, roasts, and sells craft-roasted coffee, all while offering a life-changing experience to single parents who are on the road to self-sufficiency after being impacted by homelessness, poverty, and addictions. And, you don’t need to be in Portland to taste their amazing coffee: they ship anywhere in the USA, making meaningful gift-giving so much easier.

During this holiday season, I hope we all discover that there is more than one way to give. Many social enterprises throughout the country are offering some of the best, most helpful, and most effective ways to give a gift with a purpose.