Charity dinners at restaurants are great presuming you can afford the high dollar price tag that comes along with them. For the rest of us, or at least half of us, Dining for Women's first L.A. chapter launches this Wednesday night in Hollywood.
The monthly potluck-as-fundraiser idea began in Greenville, South Carolina, after founder Marsha Wallace read an article about a group of friends who held potlucks regularly and asked attendees to donate the money they would have used for a meal out to families in need. Wallace raised $750 on that inaugural casseroles-for-cash evening. Today, the organization has raised more than $600,000 to aid women living in extreme poverty in developing countries via its more than 200 dinner-for-donation chapters.
How it works: Chapter members meet for dinner in someone's home rather than at a restaurant and donate the money they would have spent dining out to international programs. The new Hollywood chapter has been spearheaded by Stacey Gualandi, a local entertainment personality/reporter (Extra, Inside Edition, TV Guide, Hallmark Channel) who profiled Wallace for the website The Women's Eye. Gualandi says the story was so compelling, she decided to start a chapter herself. It also sounds like a much better way to meet fellow local food do-gooders than trolling Twitter or starting a casual kimchi quesadilla debate while standing in that taco truck line.
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Each themed potluck dinner targets a specific organization chosen by Dining For Women staff. As February is Cervical Cancer month, this month's beneficiary will be Prevention International: No Cervical Cancer (the organization funds cervical cancer screenings; tomorrow night's donations will directly fund their El Salvador program). One of the women coming to the dinner is a friend of the host who throws sustainable dinner parties. Thus, Gualandi is also making the dinner "sustainable."
What exactly does "sustainable" mean in potluck speak? "Food grown and locally produced using methods that are environmentally-friendly, humane to animals, and less harmful to the planet... and grown within a 100 mile radius," she says. Ideally, Gualandi recommends shopping at the Farmer's market nearest you to make that thoroughly mod fresh green bean casserole (she will be hitting the Barnsdall Art Park market tomorrow).
She adds that Trader Joe's and Whole Foods buy-ins would work in the inevitable last-minute farmers market (workday?) pinch, too. Of course, that means you would need to turn a blind eye to that 100-mile ingredient radius requirement, among other corporate oversights. But before you get your biodegradable To-Go containers in a huff, Gualandi admits she will be "learning a lot more about [sustainable suppers]" tomorrow night as well. A good cause for all.
Dining For Women, Hollywood chapter inaugural dinner. Wednesday, February 23, 7 p.m. For more information and potluck location (a private home in Hollywood), email firstname.lastname@example.org. To start your own Dining For Women chapter closer to your freeway exit, complete an application form at www.diningforwomen.org.