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Hosting your own FEED supper doesn’t have to require weeks of prep or tons of money. It can be small and simple (think: cheese boards and a big salad to pass) or a bit more lavish. It’s what’s at the heart – giving – that counts.
Every FEED Supper begins the same way, by signing up to host on our Supper site and setting a fundraising goal for your event. Truly, a little goes a long way – $1 provides 10 meals, through Feeding America.
From there, it's up to you! Whatever your vision (takeout pizza with friends? A curated sit-down dinner? a birthday party?) and whatever your fundraising goal is, Sarah Copeland’s shares her how tos to pull it off, and spread the word that we can all do our part to end hunger in our lifetime.
INVITE IN A CO-HOST: The first year we threw our FEED Supper at home, my husband and I co-hosted, with the help of our then three-year-old daughter, Greta. But as we aimed to almost double our guest list and our donation year by year – I’ve joined forces with a friend who brings their own community and contribution to the night. Anthony D’Argenzio from Zio & Sons helped me set a stunning table and bar station on year two, dear friend Rebecca Ffrench of Upstate Table brought her killer tarts and charming cakes--along with so much joy and grace to year three, and this year Chris Lanier and Dana McClure heaped on tons of love along with their space, their time, talents, and relationships with local vendors to making our night incredibly special. Ask a friend, roommate, colleague or someone you’re dying to collaborate and dive in – chances are you they’ll be glad you did.
FIND A SPACE: For a small supper, your dining room, backyard, or even a picnic blanket in a beautiful park are a perfect, low-cost welcoming space to gather. If you’re dreaming bigger, ask a local restaurant, event space (like Ravenwood’s stunning barn), community center or church if they’d be willing to let you host an event in their space, pro-bono. Many owners or managers are likely to say yes when they understand that your goal is to make sure every dime to you raise goes directly to families in need.
SET THE SCENE: Make sure you have a place to seat all of your guests, or, opt for a more casual cocktail style affair. My husband, Andras Gipp (Hudson Workshop), built both the dining table we needed to host our first FEED Supper (we didn’t have one at the time), and the 26-foot beauty in the Ravenwood barn that seated 30 guests on year four. But an old door over two sawhorses can also work beautifully as a table with a pair of borrowed benches, folding chairs or even stumps to seat all your guests. Don’t get too fussy about formality – the more relaxed you are, the more relaxing it will be for your guests.
TAP LOCAL TALENT: One of the best ways to make your feed supper feel more inclusive and meaningful is to tap your local talent, and ask for help. We asked some of our favorite local artisans, makers and producers to contribute their gifts, time or in-kind donations to help pull off a dinner that didn’t cost us a fortune to produce. Asking local florist Hops Petunia, textile artist Silk and Willow and ceramicist LAIL design to lend their wares gave us a chance to showcase their beautiful work and helped us execute our vision but still keep our costs manageable.
START WITH GRAZERS: If you educate them well when invites go out, guests will know they are gathering to raise money for hunger, and probably won’t expect a lavish feast. Still, as a courtesy to their time, effort and donations, we like to feed our guests well. This year we started the night with oysters donated by Kyle Needleman of Oyster Party--shucked fresh on the spot (bonus: no waste) along with grazing boards boards with donations of fresh cheese and sauerkraut from Hawthorne Valley Farm, freshly baked bread from Kingston Bread Lab and local fruits and vegetables, displayed on boards donated by Hudson Workshop. Guests can nibble and chat, giving you, the host, a little extra time for the main course.
SERVE FAMILY STYLE: We love keeping our suppers casual and conversational. Serving family style is the best way to get guests talking and passing and truly engaged. It also cuts way back on waste. Many philanthropic events involve tons of wasted food, which defeats the purpose. Serving family style means that people can take only what they know they can eat. Guests are super happy and plates come back empty (extras can be shared or saved).
YOU DO YOU: To keep the night focused on giving, throw a meal you’re super comfortable putting together. At Ravenwood, Chris Lanier is a master-live-fire chef who can make a killer roast pork loin over live coals in his sleep--so that became the focus of our main course. Salads and beautifully plated raw foods are my specialty, so I tackled a salad course, and styling our cheese boards. If you love to grill--go for it! Maybe pasta or homemade pizza is your jam; perfect. There’s no wrong answer here: make and serve whatever you love and is easy for you to pull off while still enjoying the conversation around the table.
DON’T BUY YOUR WINE: Serving alcohol can immediately hike up the cost of a fundraiser, making it harder to give 100% of the donations to the people who need it most. Ask a local wine shop or a friend who always orders table wine by the case to donate to your supper. Our wine came from Kingston Wine Company (who have been donors for four years running) and cider from Metalhouse Cider. Ask for a case from every vendor who donates (asking more than one vendor eases the pressure on each one, especially if they are a small business) but generally plan on one bottle for every two people. Don’t forget to serve water, sparkling water, or other non-alcoholic beverages as well.
BYO DESSERT: Dessert is the perfect place to ask a friend, an expert baker, your mom, or even a local bakery to contribute a gorgeous end-cap to your meal. Rebecca French of Upstate Table made two of her famous naked layers cakes, with pistachio and rose frosting, to finish off our night. Friends feel honored to be included and help, and may even enjoy it as an excuse to try making something new.
MAKE A SPACE TO LINGER: End the meal with a toast, thanking your guests and collaborators for their gifts, and include details about how their contribution will help. Share the actual number of dollars and meals your group raised, and how their presence there will make a tangible difference in the life of a child who deserves to learn, grow and thrive. Invite them to stay at the table for conversation, or slip away to a bonfire, a cozy couch or patio. We find that so much is shared during these meals--new alliances and partnerships form, and the love is bound to spread. Encourage your guests to continue the conversation beyond this night--drawing attention to how many families are still in need of help, and how possible it is to be a part of the solution.
BE BOLD: Before the night is over, remind guests that it’s not too late to give (if they haven’t already), or give more, if they’re able. Invite them to post your supper’s fundraising page on their social media sites asking friends and family from their community to give too. Each year, some of the largest donations came from my friends and family back home--who generously shared their blessings, even if they couldn’t join in the supper live. Get behind your fundraising goal with your whole heart, and people will be happy to contribute when and where they can.
Finally, HAVE FUN. Enjoy the process, enjoy your guests and relish in the knowledge that you have decided to take action, rather than just standing by wishing you could make a difference.
All images thanks to ANNA WOLF for Domino Magazine.
ABOUT SARAH COPELAND
Sarah Copeland is the award-winning author of the books Feast, The Newlywed Cookbook, and Every Day is Saturday (coming June 2019) which exemplify her standard for gorgeous photography, luscious recipes, and simple luxuries. The former Food Director at Real Simple magazine and a Food Network veteran, Sarah currently lives in the Hudson Valley with her young family, where she tries (and fails) at fruit farming and excels at hosting raucous, twinkly-light dinner parties for friends. Sarah is a long time friend of FEED and a frequent FEED Supper host. Learn more at Edibleliving.com.
Sarah's new books: