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The service hopes to bring strangers together for "uplifting" conversation. 

May 23, 2017

A new service aimed at millennials called MealTribes arranges potluck dinners between strangers – dinners without any political discussion at the dinner table – officially launched yesterday. 

The service has been in testing mode since January, and for now, it’s only available in Washington D.C., though there are plans to expand to other cities.

Here’s how it works: First you have to sign-up on their website, and participate in a quick phone interview to get to know your interests, but after that, MealTribes makes all the arrangements, from finding the hosts to setting the date and time.

The service is free – but you have to bring a dish to share, and there are stringent guidelines set up by the founders – Jared Gold, Marin Galvin, Cammie Wolff, and Dylan Nunn – who “created them carefully to cultivate the best possible experience.”

First, they outline their values, which include “vulnerability,” “authenticity,” and encouraging “everyone to speak their minds.” They expect guests to put their phones away and “be present.”

Besides the attitude you’re supposed to adopt at a MealTribes dinner, there are some pretty standard dinner party expectations outlined as well: You should be on time and offer to help clean up. But then they stipulate that if you’re going to bring a prepared dish, it should be from Trader Joes or Whole Foods, or a “similar level of grocer.”

Then, in a move seemingly contradictory to their insistence on “authenticity” and openness, the guidelines state that, “It is strongly recommended to avoid political discussions of any type.”

"We don’t allow people to talk about politics," Marin Galvin told the Washington City Paper. She claims that the point of outlawing politics at MealTribes is that it's supposed to lessen the chance of “arguments and hostility,” at the dinners, but the rule seems oddly restrictive at a time when politics has become to important to so many people – especially millennials.

The Washington City Paper’s writer, Laura Hayes, attended one of the dinners, and found that instead of politics, Galvin picks theme of the dinner’s conversation beforehand, which is preceded by a “moment of silence focused on remembering to be present in the upcoming conversation.”

Eventually, MealTribes hopes to monetize by allowing brands to host sponsored events, but for the time being, its model is hinged on the fact that strangers can still come together and have a good time. As long as they don’t talk about their vote for president, of course.