Re-imagining how food connects us

Food in a changing context

We have all felt the effects of Lockdown and the Covid restrictions. Now we can start thinking about emerging gradually, safer, stronger and more resilient before, as individuals and as communities. What has kept people going over the past months?

I had a hunch food might have played an important role…so I asked some of the people we are in touch with.

We heard from 53 people, mainly in our Families groups, about how important food had been to them during Lockdown. More than half said it was more important than before Lockdown, with 64% spending more money on food now. 52% were using small local businesses more, with a similar number relying on supermarket deliveries rather than going out shopping.

People said they were spending more time on cooking, getting the kids involved and enjoying the precious extra family time. People have also learned new cooking skills, trying new recipes, sharing ideas and cooking more from scratch – healthier meals, bread and ‘fakeaways’ being top of the list.

Individual to community

We all know food is necessary for our survival, and looking back to the early days of the first Lockdown, it’s true that some of us went into ‘fight or flight’ mode, panic buying and stockpiling. Very soon we saw signs of communities, and people, working together to share resources, whether this was offering to shop for others or giving people hints on where to go for certain hard-to-find ingredients.

At the same time here at Outside the Box we supported people who could not get their own shopping, and shared some of our resources on supporting older people to eat well. We also supported two groups to produce a recipe booklet. Tweed Valley Cooks was a Facebook group born during Lockdown 1, with people sharing delicious recipes and cooking photos. We supported them to obtain funding for production and printing of their recipe booklet, with all proceeds going to Borders Women’s Aid.

Sharing food, ideas, and community strength

In the meantime our Eyemouth LINKS project went from strength to strength. This video shares what they’ve been up to.

Once we saw how well the Eyemouth model was working, our Falkirk Food Connections project started delivering recipe bags too.

With many older people unable to go out much, we found it hard to reach some of these people, especially those in sheltered housing. However, we were delighted to be able to deliver big celebration cakes to mark the end of our Food Buddies project – baked by the Food Foundation in Peebles, these went down a treat at Riverside sheltered housing and the Eastgate Café in Peebles.

Local generosity

Within our communities we have also been impressed at how innovative local food businesses have been, adapting and reinventing their models to suit the situation. Some of them were involved in emergency food provision, some changed to delivering to people rather than catering in restaurants or other venues.

Throughout all this, people have been generous on social media, sharing recipes, photos, cooking and shopping tips. In our survey, people said they had also connected with friends and family safely by sharing photos of food and recipes. We all look forward to getting back to eating with friends and family; food is such an important part of our culture and a way of making social connections.