One of the fascinating Twin Cities community members featured in City Pages' People 2015 issue. Check out our entire People 2015 issue.
The notion came to her in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Emily Torgrimson was attending Boston University, living in communal housing with 24 other people.
They each took turns cooking. When Torgrimson's time arrived, she chose to cook New Orleans-style fare, asking people to kick in "a buck or two" for storm victims. So began Eat for Equity.
She would make it her permanent crusade upon returning to Minneapolis in 2007. On Saturday nights, she hosts dinners for 150 people, each with a different theme devoted to a different charity. The mailing list at eatforequity.org announces the affairs.
They take place in mansions and church basements, where the guests spill outside. The vibe, says Torgrimson: "We're throwing a party and a fundraiser breaks out."
To raise money for New Native Theater, a playhouse revisiting the American Indian story, she served hominy, wild rice, and bison at the Bedlam Theatre in St. Paul's Lowertown.
Her targets are mutually chosen by volunteers, low-to-the ground charities you won't find advertising during halftimes of football games. They include Spokes, which brings access to bikes in Cedar Riverside, and Health Finders, which operates free clinics in Northfield.
Eat for Equity survives on a rotating cast of volunteers. People "give whatever they can," says Torgrimson, "meaning money, washing dishes, playing music, opening up your home. There's something very special about opening your home. You're sharing something of yourself."
Giving comes to Torgrimson genetically. Her parents were international relief workers in Asia before settling in the Minnesota countryside. Their daughter emanates a soft kindness, a serenity, speaking with an earnestness that might sound corny from any other mouth. From Torgrimson, however, you merely feel you're in the presence of a major soul.
"People used to say, 'This is so good of you to do this.' And I didn't get it. This is really fun for me. It brings me a lot of joy. I think food is a great way for people to connect with each other. Food is a really fun way to make social change."
That joy is contagious. Eat for Equity has spread to places like Boston, Portland, Madison, and Stamford, Connecticut. Last year, it raised $160,000 for charities that are often overlooked. Yet Torgrimson considers herself the fortunate one.
"I feel lucky I've stumbled upon something that can bring people together."