In all traditional cultures food is at the centre of sharing with family and friends. People sit around a table and talk together while food is laid out and passed around. The whole notion of food and sharing so much part of Sikh culture that the Gujarati Temples have huge kitchens were everyone gets together and make curry and rise and roll out chippati’s together.
The agape meal isn’t so much part of everyday Christian practice these days but many churches do have bring and share meals and Lentern soup gatherings.
Eating together as a family is so important and I am sure I read studies in the past that said families who eat together (without the TV) tend to eat better food.
The difficulty of overcoming the poverty diet, it seems to me, isn’t just about lack of money to buy good quality food, it’s about lack of culture. It’ is much easier and actually cheaper for a lot of people to pool resources and eat good food than for a lot of individual people to buy enough for one. We need to build communities again.
I love the idea of Guerilla Gardening where people get together and plant fruit and veg that anyone can use. This was highlighted by Hugh Fernley Whittingstall of River Cottage and he also managed to bring a community together to run a small garden and homestead which included pigs.
There’s a lot of vacant land around cities which just attracted trash and rats. Helping people get together to grow good food has got to be a better use for the land. Getting communities and families to work together could mean the old lady who doesn’t eat any more can get visited and fed. It could mean the single mum stuck in her horrible flat all day with her little ones, can get out and do something with her children and be supported.
Shared gardens could help some of this too. It could mean that the able bodied people grow the food while the old lady and the local cripple (that’ll be me) can shell peas and wash veg and someone a little more capable can cook and maybe can the food.
People on benefits can quickly loose their sense of self respect and dignity. This is helped by a hostile media and just the general nastiness of other people. I am sure many people who can’t find work right now, or who have been too sick to work (especially with mental health problems) should be encouraged to grow food, and keep animals in a community setting without there being any threat to their benefits. In fact it could be a good way to help people feel they are earning a wage rather than merely picking up dole.
All this needs to be done at local level, through parishes or local community centres. Religious orders would be ideal for setting up this kind of work. Subsidiarity works well if only it was tried.