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Welcome to Yum time in Somerville

Posted by Marjorie Nesin  April 25, 2011 10:00 AM

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The Welcome Project on Wednesday is holding the launch party for its second annual YUM program to promote Somerville's immigrant-owned restaurants.

YUM.jpgThe core of the program is the $10 YUM card, which offers 10 percent discounts on any meal over $25 at seven establishments. They include food from Italy, Ethiopia, Mexico, India, Thailand, the Mediterranean, and Nepal. Wednesday's event, which doubles as a fund-raiser for the Welcome Project, costs $40 and features food from the YUM participants. It will begin at at 6:30 p.m. at Arts at the Armory.

The organization sold 400 to 500 cards last year, said Welcome Project executive director Warren Goldstein-Gelb. The stats on card usage are harder to come by. Goldstein-Gelb thought restaurants didn't keep consistent track.

The discerning local foodie may notice that the number of restaurants participating in the fund-raiser -- and the card -- decreased from 12 in 2010. (The price of the card also dropped.) "It is a challenge for some of the restaurants because they're small," Goldstein-Gelb said. However, this year "We want to do more to promote the restaurants." They've started a Facebook page, and plan to feature extra discounts and specials throughout the year.

Henry Patterson of Foodservice Financials owns a building in Union Square that houses several immigrant-owned restaurants and thinks restaurants don't get enough credit for urban revitalization. They provide foot traffic for retail stores; intrepid foodies see the neighborhood and think "Oh, I could live there," he said.

The Welcome Project's mission statement is to "strengthen civic and community life in Somerville by diminishing racism and empowering the city's refugee and immigrant groups." In a way, food can help that effort transcend politics.

"I think the restaurants really help to illustrate how great a contribution immigrants make to the city and the country," Goldstein-Gelb said. "Food is one way that people bridge across cultures more easily." Right or left, Tea Party or Socialist,  everyone has to eat.

Learn more at welcomeproject.org.

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