A little normality tastes nice - but the way we feed our city needs deep change - Ewan Aitken
Last week I did something I hadn’t done for many months – I went out with my family for dinner to celebrate my son’s birthday.
We went to an excellent local Indian/Nepalese place called Gautams, run by two brothers who my son was at school with. Excellent food and great service made for a lovely celebration. But in truth we were celebrating more than just a birthday. We were celebrating just being out for dinner.
There is a long way to go with this pandemic and we still need to be vigilant and careful so we don’t waste what we all have collectively achieved and the price which has been paid to achieve it. But a birthday dinner in a restaurant was a sign of light at the end of tunnel which was a gift in itself.
Of course, I know and recognise we are lucky to be in a position to afford to go out to dinner when 23% of families in our city, Scotland’s capital city, live in poverty. Pandemic or no pandemic, for many our neighours and fellow citizens, dinner out is not really an option. In fact, for many, dinner in isn’t something with many choices either.
I am really proud of my amazing Cyrenians colleagues who have not just delivered food for 4.2 million meals during Covid but in doing so have reduced food-waste significantly, helped our 200 plus partner organisations money go much further and also cooked and delivered over 100,000 meals to folk in tough realities. If ever there was an example of why charities are
never more needed, it is this the putting of food on the plates and the cupboards of those who don’t know where their next meal is coming from who don’t have much choice in what they eat, when they eat or even who they eat it with.
In many ways it is a scandal we need to be providing this food in 21 st century Scotland to so many its capital city’s citizens. What we do is provide it with dignity and with the maximum number of choices to do more than simply feed our neighbour, but to change the system so they will not need us to do so forever.
Our work includes teaching people to grow and cook food, running community pantries, community cook clubs and redistributing huge amounts of perfectly good food which would otherwise have been lost to landfill. For us, it’s not just giving food but sharing food that goes further so people can have the support and opportunity to believe in themselves, make choices for themselves and live again with the dignity and personal decision-making we all need to have. Our
ambition is to do ourselves out of a job.
I remember asking a man who had just completed one of our cooking courses what was good about it. He said “eating together at the end of every class. I never thought anyone would want to eat food I had cooked. I feel really hopefully about life now”.
Our summer appeal is called #FoodThatGoesFurther – food shared so not just people are fed but lives are changed. You can support it at www.cyrenians.scot.