It takes a village to feed a family

Our ancestors depended on a large community of friends, family and neighbors to make their lives work.  Now our fences are higher and our lives seem more independent, but in reality we need each other as much as ever. Here are some suggestions to help build community around healthy eating.

~ Call from the market

Have a friend, neighbor or family member you see regularly? Start a tradition of calling each other from the market to see what ingredients the other needs. When you are little low on fresh food or ideas for dinner nothing is more exciting than getting a call from your friend saying “hey, I’m at the market, what can I pick up for you?!”

Sunday soup night: a warm tradition for the whole family
Sunday soup night: a fun tradition for the whole family

~ Join forces

Is there another family that lives close by that strives to eat healthy food? Share the responsibility sometimes. On short notice you can decide to join forces for dinner. It goes like this: “Hey Sally, I’m really not feeling like making dinner tonight — we have leftover veggie chili and lettuce, but that’s it.” “Well Jane I just roasted a chicken and have fresh salad fixins — should we combine our efforts and come over at 6?”   Don’t worry that the house isn’t in the best shape for hosting or that you can’t hang out for long because there’s work to do or bedtimes… you are just two busy families sharing food and good company —  so keep it plain and simple.  Plus, picky eaters tend to enjoy food out of their comfort zone when eating with a bigger group. You can also apply this idea as a “dinner trade”– one Wednesday at our house, next one at yours.

~Out of ideas? Call a friend

I have literally made this phone call from the market (and keep in mind I love cooking and have many recipes stored in my brain) “Traci — I can’t think of one thing to make for dinner tonight — nada! Tell me what I should do and I’m doin’ it.” And if you are on the receiving end of this call, fear not that your ideas are boring because your basic “go-to” dinner idea is usually different than your friend’s.

~ Lunch groups

I was introduced to this awesome idea while in medical school. Students with similar eating styles would team together in groups of five and share the responsibility of bringing lunch for the rest. This is how it works: five people are in a group (this can work for school lunches too!) and each weekday one person provides lunch for the other four. So, four days a week you don’t even have to think about what you are going to bring to lunch!

~ Potlucks or Sunday Soup Night

A friend of mine lives in a neighborhood that has a Sunday soup night. They have one gigantic pot and people share the responsibility of providing soup for the group. Others bring bread or some side dishes.  Potlucks are another great idea of making one dish and sharing with a group of like- minded friends or neighbors. Themed potlucks are fun; for example; “local food” , “vegetarian”, “colorful” or “childhood favorites” (warning — this last one is very fun but will make for some really weird/unhealthy dishes, like my friend Gabe’s favorite food: white bread butter balls dipped in honey.) Find some other folks that are eating healthy food (or want to) and plan a monthly gathering.

~ Stop bringing crap to work and parties

I hear this all the time. “I do alright but there is SO MUCH junk at the office — I can’t control myself.” We feel a freedom to make extra baked goods or buy less-than-healthy items at the store because the extras can just be sent to work or to a gathering — as if that doesn’t count. Start a “no crap” policy at work, at home, and at parties, because no one is benefiting from it. (I am not against sweet treats at all — and there’s lots of healthy desserts, but donuts just aren’t gonna cut it — sorry).

~ Share the wealth

Going to a U-pick farm to fill your freezer with berries or something else exciting (tomatoes, corn, peaches…?).  Pick some extra for your inner circle. Next time it will be you going home with your hands full of someone else’s harvest.

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