Madison Meet and Eat, the program that brings food carts to targeted city neighborhoods, will expand into three communities this summer.
The events, which started last year in the Meadowood neighborhood on Madison's southwest side, were in demand from groups across the city who wanted their communities included, Mayor Paul Soglin said.
"It provides a place for folks to come in and discover who lives next door, who lives down the block, and start making a commitment to their neighborhoods," Soglin said.
This summer, the program will visit the Villager Mall on Madison's south side on Tuesdays in July, then on the north side St. Paul's Church on Sherman Avenue on Tuesdays in August.
Meet and Eat's vendors will come back to the Meadowood Shopping Center on Thursdays in July and August.
All of the events are scheduled from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Nine food cart vendors have signed up to participate.
The program allowed neighbors to meet each other last summer in the Meadowood neighborhood, said Marlys Miller, who's lived there for 17 years.
"Since it's 'Meet and Eat,' we took it upon ourselves to say, 'Well, we're here to meet people," she said.
Miller said she's seen an increased number of people interested in community working groups on economic and safety issues, too.
"You've got to eat anyway, so take some time out and get to know some people," she said. "That just makes 'home' a better place to be."
Soglin said his plan is to target neighborhoods with transient populations, or residents who move in and out quickly. One student attended nine different schools last school year, Soglin said.
"Not only is it an important problem -- and it's high up there -- but it's one that's oftentimes overlooked," he said, because people won't look out for neighbors they don't know.
Soglin said the Meet and Eat is designed to get groups of neighbors talking and interested in bonding together to improve their communities.
The program's expansion is costing the city "a couple thousand dollars," which covers the cost of the Parks Department's picnic tables and the coupons distributed through a nonprofit group so low-income households can purchase food from the vendors, he said.
The city has asked food cart vendors to have at least one plate option available at less than $3 this year.