Five Bucks Well Spent: Soup, Salad, and Support for Creative Social Change

Every month, about 300 Detroiters each pay $5 for soup, salad, bread, and a vote to support a creative local project for social change. The music is light, the lights are dim, and people sit on the floor around old doors and boards that are converted into temporary tables.

Every month, about 300 Detroiters each pay $5 for soup, salad, bread, and a vote to support a creative local project for social change. The music is light, the lights are dim, and people sit on the floor around old doors and boards that are converted into temporary tables. We are ready to listen and to collaborate with people who want to make Detroit better. They might be a 12-year-old who wants a clean park next to his school or a 40-year-old woman who wants to help others learn financial literacy.

Detroit SOUP has been a part of neighbors giving neighbors over $27,000 towards projects related to urban agriculture, art, social justice, entrepreneurs, land use, and education initiatives. It’s pretty amazing to watch people gather together, listen to these presenters in total silence, and then eat and share together.

SOUP continues to grow because it has a natural way of connecting people. We have a shared experience. People can bump elbows, stand in line together, and talk about what project you think would best benefit from your $5. We have watched a couple meet and marry, friendships made, jobs found, resources shared, and projects find new collaborators.

We share works of art from fellow Detroiters to explore and engage others. We want the ideas of participation, art in the everyday, and engagement of civic participation to resonate in our work. The people are the power and the dinner is the act of what we know is good: giving to one another, listening, asking questions, participating together, engaging in the conversation of making things better, and practicing our role in democracy. Multiple races, ethnicities, religions, and philosophies gather together. We get to vote our ideals, and might end up changed or challenged in the process.

The project is simple. In a world where many things seem polished and perfect we aim to create a space where we acknowledge the imperfect. We are exploring and navigating what a new Detroit can look like, and SOUP acts as a catalyst to provide an opportunity to know what people are thinking on the ground level. There is something magical about Detroiters that breeds friendliness and challenges those who have their ego ahead of the progress of the city. We're all in this thing together and we seem to know that on a very real level.

Starting your own dinner in your own city can be easy. There are a few resources available. First, head to and see if there is a dinner already happening within your city. I also created a ‘How to SOUP’ guide that lends questions and lessons that we have learned in the process. Download the guide here.

Hang out with your neighbors on the last Saturday of April (a day we're calling "Neighborday"). Click here to say you'll Do It, and here to download GOOD's Neighborday Toolkit and a bunch of other fun stuff.

Original photos by David Lewinski courtesy of Detroit SOUP

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

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