Rukiye Koch (left), Levent Koch (center) and Munise Koch (right), sit for a meal at their home in Woodland, New Jersey. Credit: Orhan Akkurt/Zaman Amerika

Talking politics over dinner may be taboo for many households, especially these days, when Americans are deeply divided in their political positions.

But a new initiative from Voting Block, a collaborative reporting project including more than 25 newsrooms serving New Jersey, will use meals as a means to surface local perspectives on the state’s upcoming gubernatorial election.

Through Political Potlucks, partners in Voting Block are encouraging New Jersey residents to host a meal with their neighbors to discuss the current political climate and their priorities for the next governor. The Center for Investigative Reporting created a conversation guide that anyone in the Garden State can use to convene their own Political Potluck.

By participating, New Jerseyans will be able to share what they want from the next governor with Voting Block newsrooms, have their voices represented in partners’ coverage and, in the process, promote productive political discourse.

Political Potlucks are the latest effort in an ongoing series of stories from Voting Block partners that are exploring key issues in the governor’s race through the lens of local communities. The project is being coordinated by CIR, the Center for Cooperative Media and New America Media, and includes news partners such as WNYC, WHYY, NJ Spotlight and The Record (Bergen County).

Each Voting Block newsroom has chosen a specific block or neighborhood in New Jersey and will host conversations with a group of neighbors as the race develops.

So far, newsrooms in the Voting Block have published stories from Paulsboro to Westwood; Long Valley to West Orange. Our partners have profiled an undocumented mother who is encouraging her daughters to become politically active, and a Muslim family that intends to vote Republican in the gubernatorial election.

Last month, Voting Block newsrooms convened neighbors in their communities for the first round of Political Potlucks. Participants discussed everything from feeling left out of the political process to finding common ground with those who have different political views.

Democratic candidate Phil Murphy even stopped by a Voting Block potluck in West Orange, answering questions about his vision for the state.

Now, it’s your turn to pull a seat up to the dinner table. You can sign up to host or join a potluck by filling out the form below. If you plan to be a host, we will send you the Political Potluck toolkit, which includes our guide and some Voting Block merchandise to sweeten the deal.

After your Political Potluck, we’ll ask you to share highlights of your discussion with Voting Block newsrooms via a quick survey. Your insights will help inform reporting by Voting Black partners, and will be featured on the Voting Block website and in a report we’ll create for the candidates about what we learned.

You can follow ongoing coverage in the Voting Block series on the project’s website,, and on social media by following the hashtag #votingblocknj.

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Cole Goins is the director of community engagement for Reveal, where he cultivates partnerships that blend in-depth journalism and creative public engagement. He has built and supported distribution networks, spearheaded arts-based initiatives such as the Off/Page Project, led social media and audience strategy, and facilitated statewide media collaborations. He was a senior fellow in the 2015 USC Annenberg Health Journalism Fellowships, mentoring five journalists on approaches to community engagement. Previously, Goins was the engagement editor at the Center for Public Integrity, where he led audience development initiatives and multimedia features for award-winning investigative projects. He earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he worked as music director for WXYC, the student-run radio station. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.