Good food with good neighbors

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Dianne and Mary met when Mary was moving into her apartment in 2017. Seeing Mary and her son hauling boxes into their new home, Dianne, also a resident in the building, stopped to say hello. Later, the two decided to walk to the store together, and after a friendly argument about which direction was faster, their bond was solidified. “That’s how we became good friends,” explains Dianne.

It’s a friendship filled with laughter. “We find things we’re always laughing about. We’re always just laughing,” says Mary. “We don’t take things too seriously or personally.”

Beyond the laughs, they’re doing something seriously cool for their community. Together, they cook food for their many neighbors. Dianne began the tradition in 2013, but it’s become a joint effort since Mary moved in. The high-rise apartment they live in is home to low-income families, immigrants, and refugees—many of whom experience food insecurity and rely on Dianne’s and Mary’s meals.

It’s not easy to feed dozens of families in need, so the two visit Neighborhood House’s food market to make ends meet. Mary says, “It helps a lot. Especially when you run short on food.”

Mary goes on to describe a commercial where a woman comes home from working as a teacher. As she’s pouring a can of soup in a bowl, her son looks up at her knowing that the soup is for him and that his mom won’t be eating anything. “She’s putting her heart out for [her students] but then when she comes home at the end of the day, all she’s got to give her child is just a little thing of soup.”

Like the teacher in the commercial, Dianne and Mary put their time, energy, and money into caring for others, even though making ends meet can be hard. They don’t need to share their food. They don’t need to cook for others. But they choose to. Their community meals highlight the growing need in the community and their commitment to their neighbors.

They credit Neighborhood House’s food market for the part it plays in making their community meals possible. As an unofficial ambassador of the organization, Dianne introduces new residents in her building to Neighborhood House so they can also get fresh, healthy food. “I had just moved in and I didn’t know anything about a food shelf,” Mary remembers. Dianne walked with her to the Wellstone Center, as she does with other new building residents, and gave her a tour.

The two view the food market as a welcoming, community space available for anyone who needs it. “I like everybody at the food market because they have a nice attitude,” says Dianne. Mary explains, “That’s what makes you feel comfortable when you come. A person that meets you with a smile tells you, ‘I’m at the right place and this is where I want to be.’”

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