Neighborhood meal-share


Top from left: Smith Gaddy, Amanda Gaddy, Carnessa Ottelin, Trey Marchant, Ryan Sabino. Middle: Krista Padgett. Bottom from left: Emma Gaddy, 10, Caroline Gaddy, 7, Luca Sabino, 8, Katie Sabino, and Adeline Sabino, 5. (Missing is meal-share member Vered Seaton.)

“We definitely look after each other – for food and for life events.”

–Amanda Gaddy, member and co-founder of a neighborhood meal-share group

by Jessie Ammons

photograph by Jill Knight

group of friends and neighbors in east Raleigh has been sharing meals four nights a week for a decade. “We’re a dinner club, but we don’t eat together,” says Krista Padgett. Her friend and neighbor Katie Sabino saw the idea in a magazine: A group of people cook for each other and share their meals, grab-and-go style. Padgett says there was skepticism at first. “We said, ‘OK, let’s try it for 30 days and then we’ll regroup.’ And now it’s been 10 years.”

The group of eight – two couples and four singles – has lasted because of its informality, they say. They never did name the meal-share arrangement, for one. And the way it works is simple: Each couple is assigned to cook one weeknight; the singles share a night and cook every other week. Everyone else comes by and picks up their portion.

Pick-ups are between 6:30 and 10 p.m., at each member’s convenience, including the cook. “If you aren’t around and don’t have time for people to pick up, it can just go in a cooler on the porch at 6:30,” says Amanda Gaddy, another founding member. “If you have to work late, no need to let us know as long as you’ll be here by 10” to pick up.

Since six of the eight were in the original crew, chit-chat is bound to happen. “Sometimes dinner isn’t quite ready yet, so you sit down and have a beer while everything finishes cooking,” says Gaddy. “But it’s like family: Nobody’s offended if you had a bad day and need to just grab your food and go.”

Also like family is the depth of the relationships formed. Already, the group was one of friends; but checking in – even just via a prepared bite picked up from a cooler – four days a week for a decade adds up. “Food is the starting place for community,” says Padgett. “We’ve developed a group of people who take care of each other and look after each other.”

When the meal-share began, Gaddy’s daughter was six months old. The collective offspring total is now up to four: ages 10, 8, 7, and 5. For each new child, the parents would take a few months off and the group rallied to provide extra meals. They’ve done the same for divorces and major medical operations. “It’s the power of a group,” Gaddy says, and adds that her kids don’t know any other way. “They’ve always had at least six other adults, other than their parents, who are keeping track of them and invested in them and on the list to pick them up from school.”