Food brings people together. It creates a community— a good potluck or buffet not only draws a crowd, but it also provides a venue for people to share ideas and spread inspiration.

That’s the idea behind Detroit SOUP.

Detroit Soup 2/26/14

Photo by Anna Hsu

Detroit SOUP was founded in 2010 by Kate Daughdrill and Jessica Hernandez and has since spread across and beyond Detroit. The idea behind the organization is to provide crowdfunding for innovative grassroots efforts to improve the city. Attendees pay $5 to participate in the meal, comprised of donated soup, salad, bread and more, and to hear presentations from different organizations and individuals about their ideas. Presenters’ topics range from urban agriculture and social justice, to education and art. At the end of the meal, attendees fill out ballots for their favorite presentation.

The real beauty of it? The winner of the vote is given all of the proceeds of the night to help fund their project.

On February 26, Detroit SOUP came to Ann Arbor. Food was brought from across A2 featuring samples from local favorites Jerusalem Garden and Afternoon Delite. Attendees filled their plates with falafel and salad, in addition to  matzaball and chicken tortilla soup (#dreams). After everyone was seated the presentations began.

Detroit Soup 2/26/14

Photo by Anna Hsu. And I’m drooling on my keyboard.

There were three presenters over the course of the evening— Champions: Detroit, Dropping Knowledge and the Jewish Detroit Initiative.

The presenter for Champions:Detroit, Michael Chrzan, discussed his plans to create a mentorship program for Detroit youths. He stated that rhe best way to teach children and make sure they stay motivated to stay in school was to build strong relationships in education. Through Champions:Detroit, college students from nearby universities (Michigan included!) would be paired with Detroit students for 8 month periods. They would meet once a week and would serve as encouragement to keep students interested in school and prepared from higher education.

Detroit Soup 2/26/14

Photo by Anna Hsu. Presenter Michael Chrzan spitting some hot fire.

For Dropping Knowledge, the presenter argued for the importance of supporting STEM opportunities for girls in Detroit. She cited our own school as an example of the discrepancy of female participation in STEM fields.  In the School of Engineering, there is currently only one black woman in the entire freshman class. To combat this discrepancy, the presenter argued to raise funding for STEM organizations through holding semi-annual rap battles on campus. Not only would this give college students the chance to see an actual rap battle beyond rewatching 8 Mile, but the proceeds from the event could them be used to fund STEM organizations in Detroit.

Detroit Soup 2/26/14

Photo by Anna Hsu. The presenter for Dropping Knowledge is dropping knowledge! Get it? Cause the name? God I’m so alone.

The last presenter argued for the Jewish Detroit Initiative. With the funds, the organization would bring college students to Detroit to discover what the city actually is besides the sensationalist stories and Chrysler commercials they are exposed to. The organization would bring together college student and young professionals to explore job possibilities in the city, as well as learn about the city’s culture—the food, the people and the opportunities there.

Detroit Soup 2/26/14

Photo by Anna Hsu. The presenter is killin’ it for the Jewish Detroit Initiative.

After the presentation, the attendees filled out the ballots for their favorite idea. By a narrow margin, Champions:Detroit received the most votes, giving the organization $400 to start getting their idea for college mentors off the ground.

Detroit Soup 2/26/14

Photo by Anna Hsu. Congratulations Champions:Detroit!

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It will take a lot to save Detroit—there are a lot of problems in the city and not all of them can be fixed with simple legislation. But, legislation isn’t all you need. Communities are banding together to better Detroit from the bottom up, and here’s a small way in which we all can help. Food brings people together, and that bond brings real change.

Keep an eye out for Detroit SOUP on campus—we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s back in town. Check out the Detroit Partnership for more ways to get involved!