Dining to make a difference

We discover how you can eat well in aid of charity.

By Lianne Kolirin, July 8, 2011
Show off your culinary talents for a good cause

Show off your culinary talents for a good cause

Raising money for charity does not have to be about climbing mountains or running marathons.

If you are not one for gruelling training and strict diets, you can still support a cause close to your heart, not to mention your stomach. Fund-raising dinner parties are all the rage, which is great news for a community big on eating and giving.

A growing number of charities are benefiting from sponsored suppers. The concept is simple and owes much to the success of Channel 4's Come Dine With Me. For the uninitiated, the programme sees participants compete to serve the best dinner party at home. The winner - voted for by his or her fellow competitors - is awarded £1,000.

There may be no prize in the charitable version, but the experience can be rewarding. Yet if the thought of asking your nearest and dearest to cough up after a meal chez vous makes you uncomfortable, fear not. Bryan Sergeant has founded www.Dinner4Good.com - a website that aims to do for dinner parties what Justgiving has done for wider sponsored events.

All you need to do is register and select your charity. The site then invites your guests by email asking them to RSVP and donate online, doing away with the awkwardness. Dinner4Good also collects the gift aid which boosts the charity's funds.

Bryan had the idea after an injury forced him to give up marathon running. "I wanted to continue supporting my local charity," he says. "I figured I would cook a dinner for some friends and then twist their arm for £20. It was quite embarrassing asking for the cash."

Hosts can support any UK-registered charity. One charity to have benefited is Action Duchenne. Though not a Jewish organisation, it has strong links to the community having published a Jewish cookbook called Looks Good, Tastes Great edited by trustee Mark Silverman.

Hosts have been organising dinner parties where they sell the book to their guests. By the end of the summer, the charity - which funds research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy - will have benefited from some 300 such events.

Another charity taking inspiration from the hit cookery show is Norwood with its Come Dine At Mine initiative. Participants are sent recipes (provided by food professionals, including kosher caterer Jason Millan), and shopping vouchers.

Event organiser Nicole Margolis says Norwood devised the idea as a way of reaching people who may not otherwise get involved in fund-raising.

"The growing success of food-related TV programmes like Come Dine with Me indicated that there was potential to attract a new group of supporters through dinner parties and other social occasions," she explains.

The dinner parties have already raised £6,000 and Norwood is encouraging more people to host them.

Earlier this year, 60 families took part in Jewish Care's One Big Friday Night. Instead of bringing flowers, chocolates or wine, guests were asked to make a donation. Hosts were sent packs similar to those provided by Norwood, and guests donated ahead of the dinner.

Lynsey Sethill of Jewish Care says: "We wanted to run an event that wouldn't cost people lots to attend. This is a really great way to reach out to the whole community. We had students, young married couples and older families all hosting dinners."

Jewish cookery writer Denise Phillips has held dinner parties for Norwood and Jewish Care.

She says: "Menus can be impressive, without being too complicated." She offers a range of menu suggestions to download on her website www.jewishcookery.com (they cost £2.99, from which £1 goes to Jewish Care)

www.norwood.org.uk or 020 8420 6922.<br>www.dinner4good.com<br><br>'Looks Good, Tastes Great' from Mark Silverman, 07885 562650 or mark@actionduchenne.org

Last updated: 10:00am, July 8 2011