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The Social Eating Movement: Targeting Loneliness, Hunger and Food Waste Simultaneously – Food Security and Food Justice

The Social Eating Movement: Targeting Loneliness, Hunger and Food Waste Simultaneously – Food Security and Food Justice

Worldwide, ⅓ of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.

In the UK alone, of post-farm food is wasted – 70% of which is avoidable.  This immense amount of food is valued at . Despite this huge surplus of food being wasted each year, a substantial number of people in the UK are going hungry. In the last 12 months, have skipped meals because of lack of money with going a whole day without food due to lack of money. people in the UK are living in severely food insecure homes with children often experiencing physical sensations of hunger. 

With occurring in households, it is crucial that people start to take notice of what they are buying and then throwing away. In a , less than half of people understood the “best before” label found on food items and that food can be eaten past this date. To prevent people throwing away perfectly edible food, from many of its fruit and vegetables.

of food is wasted by the food industry each year. Redistribution of surplus food is becoming more commonplace. Food that is past its “best before” date and due to go in the bin is collected from the food industry and then redistributed. Receiving redistributed food allows small organisations and charities to save money they would otherwise spend on food, allowing them to direct the money elsewhere and continue the good work they do.

is the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste simultaneously. They redistribute good food saved from food industry bins to schools, homeless hostels, children’s breakfast clubs, refugees and community groups. Enough food was redistributed in the past year to make over 1,600,000 meals for vulnerable people.

There are a number of other charities doing similar things across the country, including the in Sheffield and .

uses surplus food to serve tasty meals every day in cities and towns across the UK. Foodcycle not only focuses on tackling food waste and hunger but also on combating social isolation.

Regularly eating alone is the . Those who eat socially are generally more satisfied with life, have a larger support network of friends, more trusting of others and more engaged with their local communities. The health implications of loneliness are shown to be . Those who are socially isolated and lonely are more prone to and  . A guest of Foodcycle

Gives me a reason for getting up in the morning since living without my husband (who died at the age of 93)

Community eating projects are opening throughout the country. Students at the University of Sheffield run a “” every Monday using surplus food supplied by the . Social isolation is widespread in students across the UK with during their time at university. Wellbeing Cafe is an open and welcoming space for students to share a healthy meal together. The aim is to foster a sense of belonging among those who attend whilst also tackling food waste.

Also in Sheffield, is a community space designed to bring people together from all walks of life – students, the elderly, those without a home. They use surplus food collected from local supermarkets to prepare tasty food, served in a pay-as-you-feel fashion. Volunteer, Annie Vohra said,

I really enjoy volunteering at Foodhall. I have met so many interesting people from every background imaginable. The sense of community created by sharing food is something I am proud to be a part of.

Those at Foodhall are working towards growing a National Food Service, with the goal to create a public system of social eating spaces. The social eating movement is focussed on bringing people together to create a sustainable future, with all to benefit culturally, financially and in well-being. 

The  approach focuses on using the existing strengths and skills of residents to build a stronger, more sustainable community. An asset-based approach rather than a deficit-based approach establishes a level of resilience within members of a community that is more than just ‘coping’. The community develops a ‘transforming’ resilience which reduces the risk of members coming into difficulties in the first place. For the social eating movement to grow, a sense of community must be reestablished.

We have the potential to tackle the issues of social isolation, hunger and food waste all in one. But the question is, can people put their prejudices aside enough to sit and share a meal together as equals?

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