Thanksgiving Day brought the anticipation of home-cooked hot meals to many residents of St. Paul’s East Side. This year, the food was served at Nanny’s Jamaican Kitchen on Rice Street and presented by the Minnesota Rapid Response Coalition (MRRC), marking the fifth year of offering hot meals to members of the community.
Coalition founder Alexander Bourne, an East St. Paul native and former Ward 6 City Council candidate, started the event, called “Alexander Bourne’s Annual Thanksgiving Dinner to Go,” to find a way to give back to his community because as a youth he didn’t recall seeing these types of charitable outings around the holiday.
“I was trying to fill service gaps in the market on Thanksgiving Day, wanting to give disenfranchised people in our community an opportunity to feel included and be a part of something, know that they are loved, and have an extended family and community,” said Bourne.
As the crowd moved through Nanny’s front door they found a voter’s registration form at the counter. Part of the protocol was to register to vote, if unregistered, before receiving your hot Thanksgiving meal consisting of turkey, dressing, greens, and mac & cheese. However, no one registered or not was turned away from receiving a meal.
Bourne and his volunteer team prepared 650 meals. Some of the meals were served off-site to the general public at different locations around St. Paul. Bourne hopes that through this event people will see that if everyone does a little we can make significant impacts, especially in the area of food insecurity.
An attendee who wanted to be identified only as T.J. spoke admiringly of the charitable food giveaway as he stood outside waiting to be served: “The fact that this is done by a Black-owned organization or business is even more commendable.
“I take nothing away from the non-Black companies that host or support community advocacy programs or events, but it’s also great imagery when Black communities are supported by Black businesses. It’s good to show the generosity of Black entities,” T.J. said.
Some were surprised that they were asked to register to vote before receiving a plate, but Bourne felt it was important to have voter registration combined with the food giveaway. “The truth is, we need our people involved in the political process and that begins with them using their voice at the polls.
“In my opinion, if we just walk around giving away free food and not empowering them through voter registration, that would be a disservice. That’s why we put in place that small but significant stipulation,” Bourne explained.
The event sponsors included: Brickhouse Food & Drink, Decide with Danella, East Side Pizzeria, Hmong 18 Council, Just Law, and Philando Castile Relief Foundation.