Leadership Centre

Supporting leadership capacity building within Ontario.

Leadership Centre website

Enhancing leadership competencies, facilitating thoughtful discussion and examination of leadership issues for public health professionals.

Visit site

Community Food Advisor

Promoting safe and nutritious food selection, preparation and storage practices.

Community Food Advisor website

Community Food Advisors work in their community to improve and promote safe and healthy food selection, preparation, and storage practices.

Visit site

Public Health and You

Your questions about public health answered...all in one place.

Public Health and You website

Learn about why public health plays a vital role in ensuring the health of communities across Ontario!

Visit site

Ontario Public Health Association

Committed to improving the health of Ontarians.

OPHA website

Since 1949, OPHA has served as a catalyst for development in the Public Health sector.

Visit site

Nutrition Resource Centre

Credible public health nutrition at your fingertips.

Nutrition Resource Centre website

Strengthening the capacity of health professionals across all care settings and in all communities across Ontario.

Visit site

Lonely Planet: Rebuilding Community Connection Through Food

Lonely Planet: Rebuilding Community Connection Through Food

By Community Food Centres Canada

The story of loneliness is unfolding in many countries. And it's affecting our health. Studies show that loneliness increases a person’s likelihood of developing a host of serious health issues, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, and dementia. A 2015 meta-analysis by researchers at Brigham Young University found that loneliness and social isolation are as deadly as risk factors like obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity. Diet-related illnesses already place a huge cost burden on our health-care system. Add loneliness to the mix and the crisis grows.

Food can provide a pathway to change. After all, we all need to eat. Producing, preparing and consuming food together has been a cornerstone of community-building across cultures for as long as human history. It’s one of the primary ways we share our history, our values, our culture.

We may not be facing a loneliness epidemic, but we are eating alone more. That may not be a big deal if you’re grabbing a quick lunch on the way back to the office, before picking up your kids and heading off to a playdate. But when you’re spending all your monthly income on rent and transportation, you can’t afford to participate in society in the ways many Canadians take for granted. Susie, a community member from Dartmouth North, sums it up best:

“I can’t explain to you the feeling of defeat when you know you have to eat something that’s going to put you in pain, because there’s nothing else to eat; the loneliness that comes from being alone in an apartment day in and day out because you can’t afford to go anywhere. It’s just a never-ending cycle.”

Susie first came to the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre because she needed help with food. She was invited to sit down at a table of neighbours at the community dinner. She came back the next week. After a few visits, she joined a community kitchens program. Then she started volunteering. “I can never express how much the Community Food Centre has made a major impact on my life, not just physically but mentally as well.”

She’s not alone. In our 2017 participant survey, 95% of people said they feel like they belong to a community at their centre. 87% have made a new friend. 44% are volunteering in programs. A community member from the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre told us: “The big thing here is acceptance. Everyone is welcome. I was in a very bad place when I started coming here. It's given me purpose.”

That sense of belonging and connection doesn’t happen on its own. Loneliness isn’t just about being alone, it’s about feeling unused, value-less, unknown. Just being in a room with people doesn’t necessarily make you feel less lonely – in fact, it can have the opposite effect. So Community Food Centres and Good Food Organizations focus on creating ways for people to participate, contribute, provide leadership, and have their voices and perspectives heard.

At The Alex Community Food Centre in Calgary, contributing can mean anything from just showing up, to volunteering in the garden, to leading a community kitchen session in a new recipe, to joining a social justice club. “This is my second home. I don't have relatives I can rely on. Walking in here, everyone is friendly, welcomes you. Staff and volunteers really committed to treating everyone equal, making everyone welcome. I've never seen another place like it.”

And it's amazing how quickly the change can happen. The Hamilton Community Food Centre opened its doors last year after a lot of community outreach and consultation. It has already become an important gathering place in its community: “Before I was isolated. Now I come here and have a lot of friends. I get to discuss, talk, and learn with others.”

Our society’s loneliness problem won’t be solved in a lab, or in a minister's office. It's by investing in places and programs that bring communities together, and give people ways to contribute, that we can bring people together. Want to play a role? Make a donation that supports places that bring people together around good food. Volunteer. Or share this story with your friends. There’s lots we can do together.


About Community Food Centres Canada: 

Community Food Centres Canada creates and supports vibrant community centres in low-income neighbourhoods that build health, belonging, and social justice through the power of food.

 

Comments

comments powered by Disqus