One of the many things I have learned during lockdown, is the importance of food. Shopping for it, preparing it, cooking and eating it. Some of these steps can be quite testing, especially supermarket shopping during a pandemic. Prepping food while FaceTiming your daughter can be fun and a lovely way to catch up, and the end result, sitting down to a home cooked meal, is very satisfying. But if you live alone, it’s so much harder to be bothered to cook.
In spring 2020 – during the first national lockdown, due to the Covid pandemic – Journalists Sarah Stacey and Catherine Fenton began cooking and sharing meals with different neighbours. Some they knew well, others not so well. It was the start of a movement to encourage more people to cook and share meals. Teaming up with Nutritionist and Founder of the Nourish online community, Jane Clarke, and PR Specialist, Laura Nathan, ‘Share a Meal’ was born.
Share a Meal is aiming to be a neighbourhood initiative that emulates the closeness of a village community, where everyone is considered and taken care of. It’s the vital interaction and human contact, although distanced, that can provide some much-needed comfort in times of isolation. As the Founders have said, ‘food makes friends’.
Whether you pop a note through your neighbours’ door asking if you can take turns cooking for each other or you want to provide an elderly neighbour a hot and tasty homecooked meal, every meal shared is a way of showing someone you care.
Although the idea started with the women’s concerns for older, lonely people, it can be expanded to include anyone who would enjoy having a meal cooked for them. Share a Meal is ageless and limitless. Start creating and get sharing!
Share a Meal is also supported by Dr Mike Dixon, the NHS Clinical Champion for Social Prescription, who calls it ‘a wonderful initiative.’ Dr Dixon says ‘the benefits of healthy eating and social interaction have a very strong evidence base and this wonderful initiative achieves both. The health service – and even our planet – will not survive unless we can restore this ethos of mutual responsibility and community spirit. I hope this is taken up far and wide’.
The choice is yours, but to inspire you, acclaimed chefs, such as The Hairy Bikers, Prue and Peta Leith, Gregg Wallace and Phil Howard, have ‘donated’ some of their favourite dishes. You can find these on the Share a Meal website. Don’t worry, they aren’t elaborate meals, they are one-pot meals that you are already likely to be making for your family, you just have to make an extra portion. Think leek and potato soup, cottage pie and maybe a cinnamon crumble to follow.
On the Share a Meal website, you will find a host of celebrity recipes as well as simple home cooking staples. All the ingredients are readily available from supermarkets.
The pandemic has cut us off from our loved ones and our communities. There are people living alone who haven’t seen a soul for days and have little enthusiasm to cook for themselves. Your meal might be the only beacon of hope and kindness that they see during the week. Nothing says ‘I care’ more than a home cooked meal.
So, whether you make a cake, stir-up some pasta or bake a loaf of bread, take the time to share with your local community and help banish isolation and loneliness. As Gregg Wallace says, ‘We can all make a difference and have a positive impact, we just need to reach out’.