There's a shop in Harrogate that donates its end of day bread to one of the churches. This then gets given out the following day to those who need it. I bumped into a man outside the supermarket. He was displaying a bag with a lovely, day-old wholemeal loaf and some French batons. Artisan bread. 'What I really like', he said, 'is white sliced. You buy some and I'll swap yer?'
That set me thinking about today's article in the Independent Red Cross Launches Emergency Food Aid Plan for the UK' Hungry . We are now witnessing the Red Cross organising aid for the half a million of us in the UK who regularly turn to food banks to keep the wolf from the door. And yes, I say 'us' because even if we are not one of the individuals or families who use them, there is likely to be someone quite near you who goes sporadically if not regularly to a food bank. For a lot of people and quite probably people we know, it's a choice between fuel and adequate food, even if (despite Michael Gove's take on it) you juggle your resources to best advantage. It's even more sobering to learn that there are reckoned to be 43 million people across Europe who do not get enough to eat each day. Greece, Spain and Russia are among the places where the number of hungry is rising at an alarming rate. But even the wealthier countries are seeing an increase in those who range from out and out hunger (often as they try to feed their children) to the kind of dependency on food banks of my friend outside the supermarket - not being able to exercise any choice in what you are given to eat. It might sound less serious, but imagine being diabetic or having a severe nut allergy.
A friend who's living in Greece describes communities coming together to harvest olives and chestnuts, to bake bread communally and to share goats' milk, eggs and, eventually, chickens. Here in Yorkshire we have neighbours who bring us homemade cakes, honey and eggs and we share apples and harvest veg with neighbours and go blackberrying. But, as a nation, we seem to be slowly loosing the art of a community pulling together to feed itself and to make sure the stranger and the person with less to eat is included. Has the time come to recognise this and actively to look for opportunities to ask our colleagues, neighbours and friends what we can share with them and they with us? Make go-it-alone-feeding or me-and-my-family feeding a thing of the past.
Place on the table once a day something you are going to share outside the immediate household and make sure it gets shared by the end of the week. As well as food, this could be recipes, cookbooks, kitchen or gardening equipment, plants, money, toys or a pledge of time.
Count the number of times you have been given food by friends in the last month and give thanks.
Make an extra portion of something and freeze it for a Red Cross coffee morning or Oxfam cheese and wine evening or dinner party.
Visit the local food bank if you have never done so and find out what they need.
Plan a meal/tea/picnic and invite people you do not usually eat with.
Find someone to swap produce with - it's amazing how much of a bond this can create.