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The incredible impact of community dining

Words by Abi Scaife

Community dining is the latest trend making a positive difference in people’s lives.

But what is community dining?

According to FoodCycle, a charity based in the UK, community dining is all about good food, good conversation, and a great community.

Unlike a food bank, which provides people with food to take home and cook, community dining is all about inviting people to engage with their community over a delicious meal.

“It means getting people in towns and cities across the UK to come together, share good food and great conversation in a warm and welcoming space,” explains Carly Shutes, the head of marketing at FoodCycle. “It’s about everyone and anyone in the community sitting down together, regardless of their circumstances, and helping us save some food that would otherwise ended up wasted while helping each other to feel a little bit less lonely.”

The Covid-19 lockdowns left us all feeling isolated from our friends and family - but more than that, it stopped us from getting out and bonding with our communities. Your close family and friends are important, but it’s also really important to bond with the people that live around you.

Not only does it help you make more friends and relationships (which we all know makes us feel good), it’s a really great way to be more present in the world. Think of it like relationship-mindfulness!

“FoodCycle brings people from all backgrounds and walks of live together, improving mental wellbeing and strengthening community spirit,” explains Carly. “We see these transformations in our Projects every week, with guests smiling and laughing after they have spent an hour or two sharing a meal and their problems with someone in their community.”

Of course, a large part of the attraction of these community projects is the free meal - something that is more important than ever during the cost of living crisis. But equally, a lack of funds can make it even harder to socialise - people are working harder, with longer hours and less disposable income. So it’s hard to get out and enjoy the relief that comes with socialising.

“The Your Place at the Table study told us that social isolation and loneliness are viewed as contributing to poorer general health and being closely linked with food poverty,” says Carly. “This confirmed something that our guests have been telling us since the cost of living crisis began, saying they can’t afford to buy the food they need and often skip meals. We’ve heard of guests choosing not to turn their kettles on to save on electricity or choosing between eating or heating their homes.”

“By joining us for a nutritious, three course meal served in a warm space, our guests can save a night of bills, share their worries and often go home with a bag of surplus ingredients.”

Community dining is a brilliant way to help bring joy to your neighbours, as well as taking stress off their plate (pun intended), too. 

When times are tough, what you really need is a group of supportive people around you - and that’s what you get when you go to one of FoodCycle’s community dining projects: an opportunity for a delicious meal, free of charge, and the chance to get back in touch with your community.

“Our end goal is to see a society where social isolation, food poverty and food waste don’t exist,” says Carly. “We 100% encourage people to take our model and find ways to create their own meals within their community. We’re all about sharing the magic of a FoodCycle meal as far and wide as we can!”

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

Campaign to End Loneliness. This charity campaigns to make sure that people most at risk of loneliness are reached and supported. Support them here.

Grow to Give. This charity connects local farmers and hobby growers to donate surplus fresh produce to food banks. Find out how to support them here.

Marmalade Trust. This is a charity dedicated to raising awareness of loneliness and helping people make new friendships. Find out more and support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Zero Hunger.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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