This post is from Ruth Ingersoll, ED of the Community Development Council of Quinte. Ruth is dedicated to promoting food security in Hastings and Prince Edward counties. Through the CDC she promotes initiatives like the Good Food Box, Good Baby Box, community gardens, and a mobile food market. I first met Ruth when I moved to Belleville (the first time) six years ago and we sat on the Food Security Network together. Despite the many challenges to eradicating poverty, Ruth always maintains a positive attitude and is a true asset to our community. Here she shares her story of the importance of food and family. For more from Ruth, follow her on Twitter @IngersollRuth
My father was a minister of a small rural church and there were nine children to feed. We were poor. I never felt poor, as our needs were always met…even though our clothing often came from what we called the “missionaries box” and most of our toys were second-hand. Money was scarce and even though in many homes that means hunger, I never remember going hungry. There always seemed to be enough food as we sat around the supper table each evening. Eating. Talking. Laughing. Those dinner table conversations are the most memorable moments in my childhood. No matter what troubles I had in school or in the neighborhood, I always felt things would be okay, because at the end of the day I would be gathered around a table with love and plenty of food for my belly.
My husband grew up in extreme poverty. No running water. No indoor bathroom. There was only him and his brother to feed but the bill at the local grocery store was often high. If it wasn’t for the fact that they could charge their purchases, they probably wouldn’t have had food to eat. Dinner time wasn’t a pleasant experience for him. His main goal was to get as much food as possible in his mouth before the fighting started. His childhood memories of sitting around the dinner table are not pleasant ones.
After we were married and were establishing our home, we had a very different experience of the value of food and the importance of daily sitting around the table, eating and spending time talking about our day. We decided, though, that it was important for this to be established early in the marriage and before we starting adding children to the mix.
As our family grew, gathering around the kitchen table for supper became part of our daily routine. We always had enough food to eat as we sat around the table each evening. Eating. Talking. Laughing. Our adult children now tell us that those dinner table conversations hold some of their most cherished childhood memories. We have literally spent hours and hours around the dinner table discussing everything from what happened at school that day to how to solve world hunger. To this day, when we gather together in our home, it is usually around the kitchen table, enjoying a meal together. The conversation has changed, but the value of food in our home hasn’t.
I’ve often wondered how different my family’s life would be if my husband and I hadn’t made a conscious effort to establish the daily habit of a family dinner. How many conversations would have never happened with our children? How many events in their elementary and secondary school years would we have never known about? How different would our relationship be with each other and with our children?
We recently were visiting our daughter and her husband in their home. It was such joy to see this routine now established in their home. We once again, were all sitting around a table…a different table, in a different home….sharing food and having meaningful conversation.
Dr. Mark Hyman once said, “The most powerful tool to change your health, environment and entire world is your fork.” I agree with that, but would also add that it has to be a deliberate decision to make it a positive change. There are so many things that are out of our control in this world, but the value of food in our home and daily lives, is one decision many of us can have control over. It can change your life today and also the lives of your family members for generations to come!