GOOD NEWS: In Minnesota, connections are being made over the dinner table

The idea behind Stories Behind the Menu is simple and time-tested: use food to bring people together.

The program was started by Chaz Sandifer, who came up with the idea after chatting with an Indigenous chef in Minneapolis and learning that his restaurant is on land that once belonged to his ancestors. “Conversation and food — if we start there, we can have a great courageous conversation,” Sandifer told the Star Tribune.

The program started with 60 participants, and has grown to 150. Dinners are held four times a year, and there’s just one rule: sit next to someone you don’t know. The goal is to not only have people share their perspectives with new friends, but also learn more about other cultures through cuisine prepared by local chefs and caterers.

Sandifer said she has found connections come easy, and people “really want to be educated on things they don’t know and the biases they’ve learned. So I appreciate the open mind and heart.”