More than just a meal

World Food Day guests enjoying the meal togethert

Feeding new connections through eating and enjoying food

Amidst the wafting aroma of delicious food and the sound of conversation filling the room, Nourish hosted its second annual World Food Day Dinner last Sunday, marking the close of yet another successful growing season with a meal composed almost entirely of locally-produced ingredients.

Building on the popularity of last year's feast, about 80 community members joined us to commemorate the harvest while partaking in a carefully crafted menu reflective of this year’s theme, root vegetables.

Beginning with a pear and parsnip soup and followed by a series of hearty main dishes featuring potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, and beets, every bite sported an impressive range of cold-hardy tubers. Even the desserts, from a scrumptious carrot cake to a luscious gluten-free beet brownie, could not escape the addition of good things grown beneath the ground.

While many undoubtedly came for the food, the true value of the dinner extended well beyond the dishes. More than just a meal, Nourish’s annual community dinner has assumed an even greater function as a purposeful effort to build community, a way of feeding diverse connections through the simple, though oft-neglected act of sharing and enjoying food together.

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Close up photo of canned pickled carrots

Cooking and eating together

One of the greatest aspects of eating with others is that it helps us break down boundaries and resolve differences, both real and perceived. More importantly, it can help clear the way for new connections, friendships, and interactions that can only be made when people find their footing on common and respectful ground.

For the last several years, we have seen this process unfold in our cooking workshops, where participants are encouraged to enjoy the meal they have prepared together after the formal workshop ends. In a recent program evaluation, we discovered that 90% of participants felt that their experience in Nourish programs helped to bring people together, while an impressive 100% reported that the program's relaxed, participatory format made them feel welcome and involved.

We also heard from several former participants how their involvement in Nourish cooking, growing, and food preservation workshops enriched their connection to community, reducing feelings of social isolation and loneliness. Many participants found that the workshops created opportunities to meet people and build new friendships, contributing to a renewed sense of belonging.

Every year so far, Nourish’s World Food Day Dinner has demonstrated the culmination of this vital community-building work. In the course of a single evening, it makes visible the diversity of connections cultivated throughout the year: between farmers and consumers, between service providers and community members, and between neighbours in communities across our region.

Beyond simply being fed, the meal brought people together, creating an environment where everyone could leave feeling ‘full.’ In a broader sense, the vegetables that made the meal embodied the principles that guide our work. That is, to nourish strong communities, we need to address the roots.