Dining for Women: Helping the world 1 meal at a time (with a recipe for beans and rice)

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My friend Sharona invited me to dinner last week–but I had to bring a dish to pass and pay $25. The dinner was part of an international movement called Dining for Women.

Here’s the idea: Instead of eating out in a restaurant, groups of women get together for a potluck in someone’s home, church or community center, and donate the money they would have spent on a restaurant meal–usually $25 to $40–to a nonprofit in a third-world country that benefits women and girls.

It all started in 2002. Marsha Wallace, a former nurse and mother of four, read an article about a group of women who met for potluck dinners and donated the money they would have spent in a restaurant to needy families.

“Dining out dollars” to help the needy

Marsha liked the idea of using “dining out dollars” to help others. On her birthday in 2003, she invited some friends to her home to celebrate, passed the proverbial hat, and raised $750 for Women for Women International.

The idea spread. Every month Dining for Women chooses one charity in one third-world country, and all the Dining for Women groups across the US and other countries hold a potluck featuring food from the chosen country. They learn a little bit about that country, and then see a short video about the chosen nonprofit and how it will help women.

Maybe a few hundred dollars won’t go very far – but multiplied by 428 Dining for Women chapters, the program can raise a significant amount.

The group’s founding values:

  • All women deserve to be self-sufficient
  • Education transforms the giver and the receiver
  • Connections are the engine that power giving
  • Transparency and integrity will mark our work
  • To reach all, we must believe we can

Help for Nicaragua

The dinner I attended was to benefit the Americas Association for the Care of Children in Nicaragua. The organization aims to reduce the impact of poverty through compassionate, holistic education to enable the empowerment of primary caregivers, nutritional adequacy and preventative healthcare, special needs therapeutic support and sustainable community and economic development.

Our host read some background information about Nicaragua, the poorest country in South America, and we feasted on foods that had a South American flavor, including lots of beans and rice.

The group’s website has a wealth of information about projects they have funded and how to get involved by joining an existing chapter or starting a new chapter. There are even recipes tied to that month’s featured country.

Dining for Women also sponsors trips to third-world countries, where members can see the good work being done with their dollars and get a sense of additional needs.

This would be a great project for church or synagogue women or for any group of friends that wants to have a good time and do good at the same time.

My recipe today comes from the Dining for Women website, where it was reprinted with permission from: http://www.whats4eats.com/grains/gallo-pinto-recipe. The recipe photo is by Lablascovegmenu via Flickr Creative Commons.


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