social capital noun. the value of our social networks & relationships

Expanding Cultural Connections

Published by David Crowley on

A large pot of spicy meat simmers on the stove. Delicious smells waft through the air. 

The kitchen at the James L. McKeown Boys & Girls Club (BGC) is buzzing with activity. Under Chef Nathalie’s direction, one team learns how to prep plantains, while another group busily chops peppers. We are working hard, but there are a lot of smiles around the room.

The diverse group of 20 cooks pauses for a moment as Karyn provides some context for the Haitian music playing as we work. “This is dancing music,” she says, and proceeds to demonstrate.

After spending an hour cooking the meal together, we sat down to enjoy the delicious food. The cooking process and the food we were eating gave us lots to talk about with community members whom we hadn’t met before.

“It was amazing! I learned so much about [Haitian] food and culture,” commented one participant.

Cultural Connections Supper Clubs

During the 2018/19 program year, SCI teamed up with the Woburn Public Library, International Learning Center and the BGC to launch the Cultural Connections project. This project is funded through CHNA 15 DoN funds from Lahey Hospital and Medical Center and Winchester Hospital. 

The project included two larger dinners that matched roughly equal numbers of newcomers to the Woburn community and longer term residents. Participants and enjoyed various ethnic foods and interesting conversation, gently guided by volunteer facilitators.

The scene I opened with comes from the first of three Cultural Connections Supper Clubs, which bring diverse community members together to learn how to cook a new cuisine and enjoy a meal together.

The Supper Clubs got a great response! Spots for each Supper Club were typically filled within 24 hours of the signup form going live. 93% of participants said they feel more closely connected to the community after participating, certainly supporting the notion that food is a great way to bring people together!

Expanding the Supper Clubs

We were thrilled to receive another CHNA 15 grant to expand the Supper Clubs during the current program year!

With this funding, we will add a new component whereby youth at the BGC will combine learning about new cultures with cooking food from that culture.This new youth component will incorporate some teaching of basic cooking skills along with cultural awareness. 

While adding the new youth component, we look forward to offering three more Supper Clubs for adults that want to learn to cook a new cuisine! Let me know if you might be interested in leading a Supper Club or joining us!

SCI will also be looking for business partners that might want to partner with us to support the project so that we can continue it beyond our current grant funding. Thanks to Christopher Pazienza, Managing Partner at Horizon Wealth Partners, for being the first to step up and sponsor one of these events!

We would also welcome the opportunity to explore replicating this project in other communities in the region.

This project is funded through CHNA 15 DoN funds from Lahey Hospital and Medical Center and Winchester Hospital.

David Crowley

David Crowley founded SCI in Woburn, his hometown, in 2002. Under his leadership, SCI has grown to serve 20 communities in the region while continuing to make a difference in Woburn. Prior to SCI, David was the Executive Director of Boston-based Generations Inc. (now Literations). He has been involved in AmeriCorps since the program began in 2003, and served as the founding Director of the Kentucky Community Service Commission, which oversees the program for the state. David currently serves as Steering Committee Chair for the CHNA 15 regional healthy communities network. David graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government. Unsure of his long term plans, and after many service activities in college, David set out to do a year of service in rural Kentucky, which began his career in service! In his free time, he enjoys cooking for his family, reading and walking nearby Horn Pond. He also shares his kitchen creations on his food & wine blog, Cooking Chat.