Dinner for 2,000: Neighbors enjoy meal at one very large table in St. Paul

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It was one of the largest dinner parties ever -- some 2,000 people gathered around a half-mile long table stretching along a St. Paul street Sunday afternoon to celebrate their community, and also to talk about ways to bring more healthy foods to their neighborhood.

Actually, it was a row of 250 tables all connected together, set up on Victoria Street in the city's Frogtown neighborhood, WCCO reports.

The event, called "CREATE: The Community Meal," was the brainchild of local artist Seitu Jones.

An artist known for large-scale public art, Jones lives in Frogtown, where he sees many people walking by with grocery bags filled with processed foods, according to the Minnesota Daily. Jones says many Minnesotans who eat poorly are intimidated by high costs, transportation issues and simply not knowing how to cook.

So the big dinner party was designed to start a conversation about healthy eating among area residents -- many of whom have limited incomes -- as well as demonstrate some easy cooking methods.

"Folks have forgotten how to cook," Jones told WCCO. "So this meal for 2,000 people at a table a half-mile long, in my neighborhood for my neighbors, is a demonstration on healthy eating."

Jones worked with chefs to design a menu based on food that's served at restaurants near the Green Line light rail line, and the final menu included chicken, rice, black beans, green beans, collard greens, cornbread and apple cider.

Except for the rice, all the ingredients were grown within a 40-mile radius of St. Paul, including vegetables from urban farms in the metro area and chickens from a small farm in Northfield, the Daily reports.

Here's a list of all the food that was prepared for the community meal, according to WCCO:

  • 550 chickens, each four pounds
  • 60 cases of collard greens, each with 24 bunches
  • 400 pounds of green beans
  • 400 pounds of brown rice
  • 500 pounds of black beans
  • 2,200 servings of corn bread

Jones received a grant from the Joyce Foundation to develop the project and pay for the meal.

He and his collaborators say they hope "CREATE: The Community Meal" will have a lasting impact on the neighborhood.

Jones and Ellen Alberding, the president of the Joyce Foundation, wrote this commentary to describe their goals for the event.

And here's a video from the Joyce Foundation that explains more about the project.

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