Reasons why we should eat together…
“Taking the time to sit down together over a meal helps to create social networks that in turn have profound effects on our physical and mental health, our happiness and wellbeing, and even our sense of purpose in life.”
The above quote is taken from Breaking Bread, a report published by the University of Oxford, which focuses on the results from a National Survey for The Big Lunch. The report features an array of statistics and graphs that work to illustrate the way many of us feel about mealtimes and life in general. The research proves that there is a strong correlation between eating meals with other people and feeling positive about life. The report also highlights the various physical effects that eating together causes in our bodies, for example, eating with others ‘triggers the endorphin system in the brain’ which provides us with positive and healthy eating experience.
But what has this got to do with Beeston? A brilliant business called Super Kitchen. The ideas raised in the Breaking Bread report make up part of the driving force behind the community café business, and later on this year, Beeston will be saying hello to our very own Super Kitchen! I met up with Marsha Smith, founder and project director, for a friendly endorphin-inducing chat over coffee, hot chocolate and shortbread, to find out more…
Many people are busy, have children, or are on a tight budget when it comes to socialising and organising meals for the family.
Back in 2010, Marsha set up a small community café in Sneinton where she cooked a soup, a main, and a pudding three times a week. It might not sound like much, but ‘that was actually really popular,’ she tells me, ‘people really appreciate fresh food, and if the food is good then they’re quite happy to not have so many choices. I just made the food I wanted to make and asked people to come and eat it.’ This is where the seed of Super Kitchen began to grow.
‘It dawned on me,’ Marsha continues, ‘that our pubs, working men’s clubs and social spaces have diminished over time.’ This is a sound observation when you consider how times are moving on, and what it means to be social nowadays. Many people are busy, have children, or are on a tight budget when it comes to socialising and organising meals for the family. Marsha goes on to say that she ‘recognised there was a real gap in the market, especially if you don’t want to go to the pub when you’ve got children, or don’t want the cost of going out to a formal restaurant.’
At this point, as the café we sat in was getting ever busier with people meeting up for a chat, I started realise how little thought and consideration I had given to the importance of mealtimes, and eating as a family. Marsha pointed out that hungry children had been turning up to her social eating events. ‘I wanted to at least have a go at trying to use the business model for social good, so I repositioned my business as a charity and applied for funding,’ she says, ‘I then ran a year’s project called Family Café. It was a pay as you feel model that ran on surplus food from FareShare.’ FareShare is an organisation that aims to tackle food poverty by saving good food and sending it to charities and community groups like Marsha’s so that it can be turned into delicious and nutritious meals. Working with organisations such as FareShare ensures that the meals are cheaply sourced, which makes them ‘as affordable as possible and economically viable,’ states Marsha.
It was at the end of the Family Café project that various groups started getting in contact, saying “We love your model, but how do you do it?” At which point, in April 2014, Super Kitchen was set up formally. ‘What we did was we said, “we’ve got a replicable model, and we’ll give you our model and help you with food hygiene certification, support, guidance, and a link to FareShare food,”’ explains Marsha. Super Kitchen became like an umbrella, or banner, under which various cafes operate under. They pay an annual membership which covers the cost of everything including the food. ‘That’s how Super Kitchen was built.’
Within two years, they have gone from one to over forty Super Kitchens, mainly in Nottinghamshire, but there are also some located in Warwickshire, Derbyshire and Leicester. So, what about our Beeston Super Kitchen? ‘We’ll be setting one up at Middle Street Resource Centre,’ she tells me. ‘There will be a monthly social eating event, and you can expect a two or three course meal for about £2.50. It’s probably going to be vegetarian.’
With that in mind, conversation turned back to the core inspiration behind the business, and what positive effects social eating can have for us as human beings. So if you’re wondering what a social eating event is like, Marsha told me exactly what you can expect…
‘People should expect a really affordable, sociable meal that’s got loads of love in it and has been cooked by somebody and hasn’t just been pinged in a microwave. It’s just like a family dinner only on a bigger, more social setting.’
“Making time for and joining in communal meals is perhaps the single most important thing we could do – both for our own health and wellbeing and for community cohesion.” – Breaking Bread.
Visit the website at: http://superkitchen.org/