About United We Eat
United We Eat is a program of Soft Landing Missoula, which is an organization that focuses on building a sustainable effort to engage our community in welcoming refugees and immigrants while celebrating the richness in diversity, culture and experience they bring to our city.
For families forced to leave everything behind, the unique things that can be carried—the things that are kept in hearts and heads—oftentimes are recipes and traditions surrounding food. With interest and requests from refugee and immigrant families, Soft Landing Missoula has provided a platform for refugee chefs to feel valued by sharing their food with their new community.
If you would like to support the work of Soft Landing Missoula and United We Eat, and our efforts to make our community a more welcoming place for our newest neighbors, you can learn more about our work HERE, and donate HERE.
Origins of UWE
Beginning in the summer of 2017, SLM supported families selling food at the Missoula Farmers’ Market and worked with two individuals to navigate licensing requirements and paperwork for opening their own businesses. Increased interest on the part of refugees, immigrants, and the Missoula community led us down the path of our successful monthly Supper Club in partnership with local restaurants, holiday cookie sales, and the United We Eat @home weekly take-out meal program over the summer of 2019. Our programming currently includes:
Beginning in September of 2020, with a brand new commercial kitchen located downtown at the First United Methodist Church, and with a new program manager and kitchen manager, UWE@home offers weekly meals cooked by a rotating team of refugee and immigrant chefs. Meant to be a supplemental income program for chefs and their families, each chef designs a menu based on popular dishes from their home cuisine. Every week we sell 150-175 meals, and they go fast, usually selling out within an hour. "Best restaurant in Missoula," said one happy customer.
Virtual Cooking Classes
Cooking classes have become great ways to spotlight different cultures in our community, from refugees who also cook for UWE@home, to immigrants who are eager to share their culinary home culture with their new community.
During COVID, all classes are held on Zoom, and filmed in the First United Methodist Church kitchen where we cook every week. Classes are designed to last between 1.5 - 2 hours, and the goal is for customers to cook at home alongside the chef and UWE Kitchen Manager so they'll have a delicious meal to eat at the conclusion of the class.
These sales are a fun way for refugee immigrants and bakers to share sweet treats from their home countries with the community. Typically, the sales happen four times each year. They are a festive, accessible, and far-reaching way to share a taste of each chef’s culture. They are also an easy way for multiple chefs to participate at one time to earn supplemental income.
Join us for one of our popular dine-in events! Soft Landing partners with a local restaurant to plan a dinner, alongside one of our refugee or immigrant chefs. We're planning to hold 6 supper clubs in 2023. Join our email list to stay up to date on these and other events! You can find out more about supper clubs HERE.
Beth Baker, UWE Program Manager
Beth grew up in Germany and Syria, and moved every few years as a child. She studied English as an undergraduate at North Park University in Chicago, and then got a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana. In between, she learned Arabic, lived in a small Palestinian village for two and a half years, and spent years migrating between Alaska in the summer and Missoula in the winter. All of the moving she’s done has given Beth a lot of empathy for people moving to new places, especially for folks fleeing violence and persecution.
Beth is thrilled to be back in Missoula after a seven year sojourn to the Pacific Northwest, where she worked in agriculture and hunger relief, managing programs that increased fresh food available to food bank participants. She is so excited to be a part of the Soft Landing Missoula team, and work with Missoula’s refugee and immigrant communities on the United We Eat program, combining her delight in delicious food with the joys of building community and putting down roots.
Casey Chapman, UWE Kitchen Manager
Casey grew up all around the American South, moving every few years until she landed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There she attended Louisiana State University and studied Political Communication and Sociology. After working in the nonprofit world for a few years, she took a big leap to start cooking professionally. It was a big change, but she never looked back! Casey fell in love with the hustle and bustle of kitchens, and the joy that comes from making a delicious meal to share with friends.
Casey is thrilled to join the Soft Landing Missoula team, and has fallen in love with the small-town wonderland that is Missoula, Montana. She moved here in 2020 without many local connections, so she knows how important (and sometimes difficult) it is to find community in a new home. When she's not cooking, you can usually find Casey at The Roxy Theater for a movie, performing comedy around the state, or cuddling her dog.
Rozan Shbib, UWE Kitchen Assistant
Rozan Shbib is from Damascus, Syria, and lived for seven years in Cairo, Egypt, before arriving in Missoula in the fall of 2020. While in Cairo, she worked extensively with her mother in the four different restaurants she ran, and became a proficient cook, specializing in production baking and Syrian dishes. Besides her busy schedule in the kitchen with her mother, Rozan was a third year law student in Egypt, focusing on human rights law. When asked who taught her to cook, she said, “My mother, and Annette on Youtube. She makes delicious desserts!” Rozan does make a mean oreo ball, but she also makes delicious Syrian pastries.
Rozan loves to listen to music while she cooks. She says cooking helps her think and get ideas. Her favorite people to cook for are her family, because they will be honest with her and tell her what they like and don’t like. Rozan hopes her cooking will encourage people to sit down and enjoy the meal together. She loves the beautiful landscape in Missoula, and the people are “so, so nice.”
In a world divided, we believe it is United We Eat!