When the Wetzel-Curtis family moved from western Wisconsin to Minneapolis last year, it felt like a different world. Coming from a small city in Wisconsin to Lowry Hill East was a big transition. One they liked, Nadine Wetzel-Curtis said, with a more walkable community and lots of people nearby.
They heard about the Wedge Community Meal, a free outreach effort launched in November by the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association, and decided to check it out.
“This was a really great way to get to know people in the neighborhood,” Nadine Wetzel-Curtis said.
It didn’t take them long to get involved. On Jan. 8, Nadine and her children Isaiah and Thea, prepared a beef chili and brought it to share.
“If everybody does a little, nobody does a lot,” Wetzel-Curtis said.
The idea behind the Wedge Community Meal is that no one who attends has to do a lot. The meal is free. There’s no agenda or business to be discussed, just a voluntary sign-in sheet and a basket for optional donations.
“I really wanted something where you feel like it’s just for you,” said LHENA community outreach director Scott Melamed.
Melamed was hired as a full-time staffer by LHENA last year and was looking for organic ways to get Wedge residents together. A meal with no strings attached or neighborhood meeting business to discuss seemed like a good option.
“It’s something we could just start,” he said.
LHENA held the first community meal in November. Melamed and his girlfriend Alex Beaumont prepared a massive pot of vegetable soup. As it’s grown, more options have been added, and more people have offered to chip in.
The meals have all been held at SpringHouse Ministry Center at 28th & Lyndale, technically in the Whittier neighborhood. SpringHouse building use coordinator Deb Murphy said Melamed reached out to her about potentially hosting the meals there and preparing them in SpringHosue’s large kitchen.
“We were very happy to have the space be used for something of that nature,” Murphy said.
The menu on Jan. 8 featured a vegetable soup, beef chili and a curried squash soup. Each meal, they try to shoot for at least one vegan and one gluten free option, Beaumont said.
The crowds have been consistent, with between 20 and 30 people coming to the bi-monthly meals.
“It always seems to be some regulars and a few new faces,” Beaumont said.
Isaac Johnson originally came to Minneapolis from Pennsylvania to attend the University of Minnesota. He moved back to the Wedge area a few months ago. He said he’d wanted to get involved in the community for a while, and when he met Melamed and Beaumont at a coffee shop that proved to be the nudge he needed.
“I think the core is the conversation and meeting people, and the soup is just a vehicle for that,” Johnson, who prepared the curried squash soup with his partner, said.
For longtime area residents like Glenn Crown and Bonnie Bond, both of whom say they’ve lived here for about 35 years, the meal has been a welcome gathering and a chance to meet neighbors.
“And the food is good,” Crown, who volunteers at SpringHouse through United Church of Christ, added.
The last scheduled community meal will take place on Jan. 22 at SpringHouse. Melamed told diners at Tuesday’s meal that they’re considering bringing them back in the spring in more of an outdoor, picnic setting. He’s also hopeful that people who have enjoyed the meals will champion the efforts going forward.
“I would love for it to take on a life of its own,” Melamed said.