Soul Food Advent Blog Series 2018: 'Room at the Table'
Guest blogger: Hannah Lawrence
Sharing a meal is more than just the act of eating, it demonstrates friendship, a sense of community, hospitality and grace.
The gospel of Luke tell us that Jesus spent a great deal of time eating with the people around him, tax collectors, sinners, his disciples, and the poor, he treated everyone equally and wanted his banquet to be welcoming to all.
In many parts of the world communities and families gather to eat simple food, and they sit on the floor, they don’t have tables.
Metaphorically speaking, we all have a spare seat at our tables.
Having only recently heard about Soul Food through the wonders of social media I’m humbled and inspired that everyone in need of a meal is welcome. Dinner guests are treated with love and respect, in the way we would treat visitors to our own homes. Soul Food’s vision is unique and legendary and screams ‘There’s room at THIS table.’ As it says on the tin, it’s ‘more than a meal’ and provides a safe space to share companionship, love, and well prepared, healthy food. It gives people the support and opportunity to re-build their lives as well as meeting their immediate need for a meal.
Food poverty hugely affects those behind closed doors. A 2016 study by The Food Foundation found that 14.4 households are unable to afford the basic staples required to meet government nutritional guidelines. This is corroborated by the increasing use of Food Banks.
At this time of year, the hidden depths of poverty in the city are so easily overlooked by the hustle and bustle, the bright lights, and the ever-increasing obsession with over-consumerism, making those who are already marginalised from society even more so. The unseen poverty. Those in basic, often substandard accommodation with little money for electric let alone food; those in work, low paid or zero hours contracts whose benefits are relentlessly delayed, or sanctioned. Those making the harsh choice between paying for bus fares to work or basic food. It’s an angering indictment on society that those in power have allowed this to happen.
Shared meals are a wonderful thing. I think back to my childhood where the old ladies in the church organised the annual Lent Lunches, a very basic Friday meal of soup and bread. One of the old ladies was quite mischievous and used to shove a digestive biscuit in my hand when no one was looking. This was quite a treat. After the unexpected death of my father when I was 8 years old we only had biscuits at Christmas.
No one chooses to put themselves into desperate situations such as homelessness and poverty. People who are in these depths need practical love, compassion and companionship.
We need to make a stand against how diluted the meaning of Christmas has become with extreme consumerism, endless waste, and over consumption, and make room at our tables for everyone.
Hannah is a wife and mother, and retired journalist who likes cats, nice people, knitting and biscuits.