Somerville may only take up about four square miles, but within its borders, you can eat Ethiopian ingera bread, Turkish stuffed grape leaves and Portuguese linguica sausage. Dozens of Somerville’s many excellent restaurants serve food rooted in places thousands of miles away. And now The Welcome Project is celebrating our diverse food culture through its YUM Card program.
The Welcome Project is an organization that works throughout Somerville to give immigrants a collective voice to help shape the city. The Welcome Project taps into the language skills of the city’s many bilingual youth through its Liaison Interpreter Program of Somerville and provides English classes to adult language learners.
The YUM Card program is the third component of The Welcome Project’s work. It combinies Somerville’s rich intercultural population and its burgeoning food scene–two things that often intersect.
“Immigrants provide a tremendous amount of strength to the community,” said Warren Goldstein-Gelb, director of The Welcome Project. He added that there are more than 100 immigrant-owned food businesses in Somerville.
For $10, purchasers of the YUM Card get a 10% discount on food orders of $25 or more at the 11 participating restaurants. They are located all over Somerville and offer food from around the world: Aguacate Verde: Mexican, Porter Square; Amelia’s Kitchen: Italian, Teele Square; Fasika: Ethiopian, East Somerville; Gauchao: Brazilian, East Somerville; Masala: Indian and Nepali, Teele Square; Istanbul’lu: Turkish, Teele Square; Los Paisanos: Central American, East Somerville; Maya Sol: Mexican, East Somerville; The Neighborhood Restaurant: Portuguese, Union Square; Sabur: Mediterranean, Teele Square; and Yak and Yeti: Nepali and Indian, Ball Square.
The money raised from the sale of the cards goes directly to benefit the work of The Welcome Project in the Somerville community. The cards can be purchased either on The Welcome Project’s website or at the Winter Farmers Market this Saturday.
In addition to the cards, The Welcome Project is regularly updating its YUM blog with features about the restaurants involved in the program as well as other immigrant-owned food businesses in the city.
Natalya Minoff, the YUM communications intern, recently had the opportunity to dine at Fasika, an Ethiopian restaurant located in East Somerville that is participating in the program. She sampled both vegetarian and meat dishes to experience as many flavors as possible, but it was the way she dined, rather than what she dined on that made the biggest impression.
“There was an emphasis on the communal dining experience. I got to see how the eating experience itself reflects the community,” said Minoff, who is also a senior at Tufts University.
Each of the YUM restaurants have a Shape Up Somerville-approved menu, which features healthier items.
“Shape Up has been a major presence for a number of years. It has an impact on and benefits immigrant families. It shows that foods people are already eating can be healthy or made healthy,” Goldstein-Gelb said.
While the YUM Cards are good throughout 2013, the program culminates with a big event at Arts at the Armory (191 Highland Ave.) on April 25. YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City will showcase food made by the restaurants in the program in a casual setting with live music, an auction and a short program. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door.
“The bigger picture is creating and celebrating an intercultural city,” Goldstein-Gelb said. “It’s important that people from different cultures and backgrounds share the great things that they all bring. It makes the community stronger.”
Images courtesy of The Welcome Project.