Dining Out For A Good Cause

How many times do you go out to eat in a month? The last year? If you’re anything like me, you’ve got to fight the instinct to answer each question with two different numbers- one for how much I went out ‘Before’, and one for ‘After’ COVID. It’s no secret restaurants took a big hit over the past two years- I can think of plenty of personal favorites that didn’t survive at all.  

Now, as case numbers begin to go down and the promise of Spring approaches, plenty of us are ready to get back to dining out. It’s a privilege I am far more aware of these days, and every time I go out it feels like I am doing something good for myself, and I can’t be the only one. 

But then the question arises- why just go out for yourself, when you could also go out to support your local community? That is the proposal behind Dining Out For Life, a one day event on the last Thursday in April where participating restaurants partner with local HIV service organizations to raise money and educate the community.

 I had the pleasure of speaking with Dylan Boyer, Events and Communications Manager of the Aliveness Project. For nearly 40 years now, the Aliveness Project has been working to provide food, services, and information for Minnesotans living with HIV/AIDS. On the food side of things, they provide home cooked meals six days a week and run a food shelf. This, along with case management, mental health services, and most recently opened Minnesota’s first free PrEP Clinic, THRIVE, makes the Aliveness Project a truly one-of-a-kind organization.  

And, since the Aliveness Project began as a series of potluck dinners way back in 1985, it’s only fitting now that its key fundraiser be centered around good food and engaging conversation. 

“This year we are really excited and hopeful. You know the past two years, Dining Out For Life has looked different.”  On April 28th, restaurants like the Herbivorous Butcher, The Nicollet Diner, The Saloon, Muffin Top Café, EagleBOLTbar and Herbie Butcher’s Fried Chicken will be donating their profits to support the work that Aliveness does. 

“It’s really astounding to think about these restaurant partners over the years stepping up as members of the community,” Dylan tells me. “Any time a restaurant signs up, you are advocating for rights for a community that has faced so much stigma over the years.” Along with the financial contributions, that day restaurants will open their doors to ambassadors- volunteers, some of whom have experience living with HIV- and according to Dylan, they are what really make the event special. 

“They are the welcoming committee that really opens the door for some of these conversations.” Dylan himself was once a volunteer for Dining Out For Life when he lived in Chicago. He explained that for him, it was an opportunity to share his story as someone who lives with HIV. His passion is evident, even as we talk over Zoom. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the diner as well- rather than simply reading a pamphlet or watching an educational video, they are given the opportunity to have real conversations with people who understand what the community faces. 

 “One of the beauty things about Dining Out For Life is that we are able to shed so much stigma in that event. Bringing HIV to your dining table, and to have that conversation around there- this isn’t something that’s talked about that often. But on this day, one day a year, we can do that in all of these restaurants across the Twin Cities.”  

You can visit DiningOutForLifeMN.org to find a full list of participating restaurants, as well as information on how to become an ambassador (either in person or by hosting a virtual dinner). More information about the Aliveness Project can be found on their website, Aliveness.org, as well as on Facebook and Instagram. 

“One of the most important meals people will have all year long is Dining Out For Life. This is our primary fundraiser. It’s so simple- go out and eat a meal. There’s just a little bit more meaning behind this one.” 

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