Build lasting bonds just by getting your neighbours together for a shared feast
By The LocalLove.ca Team
Want to get to know your neighbours? Invite them over for a meal—but not just any meal. Have the whole ’hood get together for a community supper and you’ll be amazed by the bonds you form, just by breaking bread together.
Food is a universal language that breaks down barriers and unites people of different backgrounds, says social justice activist Nick Saul. “There is something about food that has been bringing people together since we started to walk, forage and communicate with one another,” he says. “We could light a fire, and people would eat and tell stories and share—I think it’s something in our DNA.”
Saul has seen the value of a community supper countless times as co-founder, president and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada, a national organization, based in Toronto, that builds and supports food-focused community centres in low-income neighbourhoods. At these centres, community members become involved in the production and preparation of healthy food, then share it with others.
Food can empower and connect people, Saul says, and any community can benefit from getting together for a giant potluck. Here are his best tips for hosting your own community supper.
1Get the word out in advance
Send out a save-the-date so people have time to get excited and clear their calendars. And designate a small organizing team that is as diverse as possible and reflective of the community in general to ensure that people of all backgrounds will hear about your event and feel included in the planning.
2Find inspiration in your community
Your plans—from food to decorations—should reflect the many different people in your neighbourhood. Saul suggests having different cultural food options, plus vegetarian and tasty dishes without dairy or gluten to ensure everyone can enjoy the meal.
3Make everyone feel welcome
If you’re planning on discussing community issues, making the event adults-only makes sense—but you might get a better turnout if you can find a way to include kids. There are several options, says Saul, such as organizing childcare or providing children’s activities at the same location as the meal.
4Establish your goals
Saul recommends planning the event around a theme or a type of food. Maybe you want people to gather to discuss a certain issue, such as gentrification, affordable housing or community gardens—or maybe you just want to bring people together to enjoy some wonderful food from a part of the world that resonates with your community. Either way, it’s a win-win.
5Break out the good china
Through his work with food centres, Saul has seen the difference small things like cutlery, plates and glasses can make for many people. “These things should not be plastic and disposable—it sends a message to people that they are disposable,” he says. “In our context of working with a lot of low-income people, we’ve learned that they often feel isolated, alone and not cared about. I’m really convinced that if you make a meal with love, people feel that—and, as a result, they feel that they matter, too, because someone took a lot of care.”