Breaking Bread, Fixing Philly

Effort urges area residents to engage over food to improve community

(Photo Left) “On the Table Philly” initiative launches at Columbia North YMCA on North Broad Street. Photo courtesy of Community Marketing Concepts.

Philly’s needs are great, most citizens likely agree. Perhaps you have wondered what you could do about those needs if you had an opportunity to engage with a group of others to discuss solutions and formulate a plan for addressing those needs.

If so, the Philadelphia Foundation and the James L. Knight Foundation have an initiative for you.

Last month, over food and beverages at the Columbia North YMCA, at 1400 N. Broad Street in North Philadelphia, the foundations kicked off “On the Table Philly,” a new pilot initiative aimed at opening dialogue and inspiring new solutions to strengthen communities.

The effort is part of a larger initiative launched by Knight in 10 cities to “bring residents together in small mealtime conversations to talk about ways to make their neighborhood stronger, safer and more dynamic.”

Says Pedro A. Ramos, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation, “each of us has the power to make our communities great.”

In a statement, Ramos offered, “We invite you and your families, neighbors, colleagues and friends — old and new — to pull up a chair, share a meal and discuss the ways in which we, as individuals and as a collective, can work to make our communities stronger and more dynamic. “On the Table” is a celebration of civility and citizenship.”

The idea is that on May 23 people throughout the Greater Philadelphia region will gather over breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner, dessert or an evening snack for discussion and ideas.

Hosts are encouraged to register their event at the effort’s website, www.onthetablephl.org, where they can access more resources and updates.

There, they’ll find advice on who to invite (friends, family, colleagues, neighbors) and how many to invite (parties of about eight to 12 people per table). It also encourages co-hosting with a local nonprofit or community group.

It suggests that participants “consider the conversation as a journey. Every guest’s ideas and stories are important, and ‘On the Table Philly’ conversations should provide an opportunity for all participants to reflect on what we value most, consider choices and trade-offs and invite all ideas.”

It also urged, “Focus on generating solutions,” and noted that the foundation wants to showcase some of the ideas “in order to inform and inspire” others to action.

The effort’s steering committee includes an impressive list of members — from Jim Cawley, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern NJ to Michael DiBerarardinis, managing director for the City of Philadelphia to Sharmain Matlock-Turner, president & CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition — many of whom attended the kickoff and helped demonstrate effective conversation and exchange of ideas.

Said Ramos, “What you see here today is a taste — if you’ll pardon the pun — of what will take place on May 23. There will be more than a hundred fun, engaging and productive conversations that will create new relationships and inform further community and civic initiatives.”


Breaking Bread, Fixing Philly
Sheila Simmons - Contributor

Sheila Simmons brings many years of writing and communications experience to her work for Liberty City Press. She began her professional writing career at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she covered Business, City Hall and Education.


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