Anuj Gupta at The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Over the last several years, Philadelphia has established a number of successful templates for civil community conversation, including the Philadelphia Foundation-supported On The Table initiative and the Knight Foundation-supported Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers. These conversations have taken place in venues ranging from church basements to neighborhood parks. They have transcended race, religion, income, language proficiency, and many of the other artificial barriers we erect to separate ourselves. And they have consistently demonstrated that when we allow the noise to dissipate, and the heat of the moment to cool, we can sit across the table and find some sense of common purpose despite divergent worldviews.
As the former general manager of Reading Terminal Market, I worked with a number of community-based organizations to foster the Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers project, a three-times-a-year community dialogue project. Our premise was simple: We asked our participants from diverse communities, who did not know one another, to come together and learn about one another by sharing their respective cuisines. Leveraging food’s power as a common denominator, participants then engaged in post-dinner discussions to build the foundation for lasting relationships.