Eating Meals With Strangers Encourages Stronger Cities and a Better World

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Yesterday I made the case that keeping a village pub alive was a green act in and of itself, and we know that borrowing from and lending to our neighbors can help cut our need to consume. Then I came across a new social network that encourages us to break bread with strangers—setting up dinner parties, picnics and restaurant dates with others who love to eat. Pretty neat I thought. But is it green?I first came across Eat With Me via the always informative folks at Green Renters (whose efforts to help the non-homeowners among us go green I've covered before). In a blog post entitled Eat Your Way to a Stronger Community, Bethany Jones makes the case for why renting often makes it hard to build any real sense of community:

Renting often sees a high turn over faces, places and neighbourhoods which means that, despite best efforts, it is sometimes hard to connect with the community. We all know the benefits of a strong community and friendly neighbourhood but often we don't know how to engage or start the conversation.

As an antidote, Bethany organized a dinner party through Eat With Me—a social network that allows anyone to create a food-related event and invite others to join them. The result was not just entertaining company and delicious food, but also ongoing relationships with attendees dropping off homemade foodie gifts as season's greetings long after the event had past.

Of course there are many explicit ways that you could turn Eat With Me into a green effort. 100-Mile dinners, meat-free Mondays and weekday vegetarianism, cook something you grew yourself—the green-leaning themes and possibilities are endless. But much like the cooperative pub, I would argue that simply providing space to know, care about and interact with your neighbors is a big step toward sustainability by itself. Serendipitously, as if to back up this assertion, I see a tweet from Michael Pollen this morning alerting us all to a paper by Carlos Monteiro pf the Centre for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition at the University of São Paulo, who argues that a focus on meals, not just nutrients, must be central to encouraging a healthy food culture:

A meal is not merely a substantial amount of food and drink consumed on one occasion. Meals are meant as social occasions. In societies whose food systems and dietary patterns remain at least partly traditional, in which food systems are secure and so people normally have enough to eat, such everyday meals also characteristically make nutritional sense, given available resources.

So remember, sit down with those around you to eat on a regular basis. And if you don't have anyone to eat with, or you just want to mix it up a little, Eat With Me seems like a great place to start.