As my favourite holiday of the year approaches, and I think of everything that Christmas means to me - family, memories of Christmases past, food, the warmth of home, and the hopes we have for ourselves and each other in the new year - I wanted to draw your attention to a local organization that embodies Christmas all year. That organization is St. John’s Kitchen, a part of the Working Centre.
St. John’s Kitchen, which in addition to serving hundreds of meals a day, provides a place and a space of community, engagement in the meal (many of the volunteers are also patrons), and in its most fundamental form the ability to break bread together. And it is this notion of eating with others that is central to our concepts of belonging and kinship. While we may acknowledge these throughout the rest of the year, it is at Christmas that it is most keenly felt.
Food security is of local and national importance, but it is also of personal importance. As food is a basic necessity, to be without is not only to be without food but is to also be without everything else that was of a lesser priority (a winter coat, soap, etc..). In addition to hunger, a lack of food security can mean isolation and despair; two feelings that St. John’s Kitchen lessens through the services it provides.
We are very fortunate to live in a region that grows and produces such a variety and quality of food. Those amongst us who can afford local and fresh food know the sense of belonging and community that comes from such a prepared meal. Maybe the carrots actually do taste better or maybe it’s those you’re sharing them with or maybe it’s being part of a visible food system that provides the joy in eating.
Unfortunately, the proportion of those in the region without the economic means to afford fresh food, or any food at all has been growing. Although it can be money that decides who eats what, indirectly it appears that money also governs whether and whom one eats with. And this in turn governs how connected we are with others.
In recognition that food is not only vital to our existence but also to our sense of belonging and community, I invite you to post the following list in any space and place you can. It is a list of free dinners that are offered over Christmas by St. John’s Kitchen and also at various churches, centres, schools, and bars.