The simple act of sharing a meal is a greater one than we imagine. Food is so much more than just fuel.
When we eat together, we talk together and share the experience of life together. It’s a fundamental part of our relationships, communities and well-being.
We recently held our annual Christmas community lunch with our colleagues, peers and the people we serve who are experiencing homelessness. This was very much a day about coming together and belonging as a community.
Winter is a time when people experiencing homelessness are at their most vulnerable. They face a daily struggle to stay safe and warm. Having access to healthy food is a constant battle.
On top of these difficulties, there is the crippling loneliness of Christmas for people living on the streets. Christmas is meant to be a time for joy, love, laughter and cheer. But for some it can be a very lonely, isolating and sad time of year.
One in four people affected by homelessness in the UK will be on their own this Christmas. More than six out of ten will spend it with neither family nor friends.
We are determined that Christmas should not be a lonely time for people who are rough sleeping. We are deeply aware that social networks are vital in combating mental and physical illness, particularly for people experiencing homelessness.
In these increasingly fraught times, when community cohesion is ever more important, making time for and joining in communal meals is one of the single most important things we can do – both for our own health and wellbeing and for that of the wider community.
At Providence Row, the cafeteria tables are an emblem of our community. Eating together gives us the opportunity to talk, laugh and share stories particularly during the Christmas period.
What a spirited and uplifting meal we had. Our Christmas community lunch brought lots of different people together, who may not have had the opportunity to meet before, to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
The food was simply scrumptious. We had the traditional English Christmas roast, the turkey, the Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes and parsnips. A good portion of the vegetables came from our roof top garden, an oasis of sustainable farming.
We have always encouraged healthy eating amongst the hundreds of people who use our services every week. We ensure that fresh vegetables and fruit from our rooftop garden are on the menu daily.
At Providence Row our vision is to build a community of support, one in which everyone is welcome. We know that sharing food helps strengthen community bonds – and it’s also great fun. How heart-warming it was to see everyone united, tucking in to a delicious meal, conversing, swapping stories, laughing and being merry.
This Christmas, we are grateful for the phenomenal outpour of support we have received from our east London community and beyond. Please continue to support us in helping some of the most vulnerable people in London.