Food Sharing Builds Community

by Kim Hemmert

Food is a basic need for survival. There are some people who experience food insecurity and others who have food in abundance. Food has the power to bring people together across cultures and generations. Positive experiences such as making meals and breaking bread together, sharing family recipes and trying new recipes, all strengthen relationships. Relationships are the fabric that weaves through every aspect of life and connects us to each other, our communities and society at large. A staff member at Family Advocates shared this story about building community through sharing food:

“A participant [in a parenting class] arrived with grocery bags filled with vegetables from her home garden. She laid out her vegetables and encouraged the other participants to partake in the abundance.  From my eyes, I was witnessing a local farmers market…All the participants waited excitedly to fill up their bags with colorful vegetables. 

“What I witnessed was community in action. I was lucky enough to witness the smiles, joy and connection that took place in the room. When there are less barriers, then families are more likely to succeed in meeting their basic needs. They felt safe enough to share, take, and delight in this process of giving and sharing. They shared the different foods they would make with the fresh veggies, including cooking tips.

“Food is connection and fresh garden food particularly speaks to the Latino community as many have fond memories from their ancestors including the sharing of abundance of food. Though this act of food sharing could seem as a “nice, kind” gesture, this sharing moment went deeper into the ancestral roots of crop sharing, cooking, nourishing the body, making healing food from fresh produce, while building community. This one time they witnessed sharing, caring, community, growth and resilience through an act of sharing. Who knows what the impact will be from then on?

This story illustrates three of the four building blocks of HOPE, or Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences. Family Advocates provided a Safe, Equitable Environment for the participants to gather, share food and knowledge, and learn together. By attending the parenting classes, the participants were Socially and Civically Engaged in building community and felt a sense of belonging. Through this exchange they strengthened their Relationships, not only to each other in the group, but also honoring the relationships with their ancestors and culture.

Our work at the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund (ICTF) promotes the building blocks of HOPE and the five Protective Factors which are: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, social and emotional competence of children, and concrete support in times of need. These Protective Factors and building blocks of HOPE promote optimal development so individuals, families, and communities thrive. Family Advocates is a current ICTF annual grantee recipient, and we are grateful for the work they do to build community and spread HOPE.

If you would like to know more about programs and organizations founded in the protective factors and HOPE, or want to get involved, contact the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund.