Sharing mealtimes

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

Advice about healthy eating may be fine, but often our challenge is a matter of lifestyle and social support rather than a lack of knowledge about vitamins or protein. It’s not much fun creating nourishing meals when one sits alone at the table day after day. While ads might feature couples enjoying candlelit dinners together, when our partner is gone and family members live far away, many of us are left with no mealtime companion other than the television. Since numerous people face this identical situation, it’s worthwhile doing some exploring. The result: isolation problems can become a distant memory.

Reach out: You have no idea how happy you will make someone if you do the unexpected and invite an acquaintance over to share a meal and perhaps prepare it together. Your guest might even help pick a recipe or join you in shopping for ingredients. You can do this even when you don’t know how to cook very well – perhaps your guest has chef skills or you can bumble through the preparation together. If your recipe fails, have a good laugh and go out for dinner!

Join a diner’s group or a vegetarian association: More and more communities have a lively vegetarian association and membership spans the spectrum from newborns to ninety-year-olds and those arriving via wheelchair. If you can’t find such an association, ask around for people with whom you might start a monthly potluck. Existing groups often began with two or three members. An example is EarthSave, which offers dineouts and potlucks. ( Also see For raw food events on Vancouver Island and throughout the mainland, see

Explore cohousing or similar group living solutions: I have the extreme good fortune of living in the wonderful and thriving WindSong Cohousing Community in Langley. Cohousing is a modern form of village that originated in Denmark several decades ago. BC has 12 such communities, either established – including three in the Lower Mainland – or in the formative stage. They offer the joint advantage of home ownership plus connection with a vibrant and diverse community of people. Cohousing appeals to people of different generations and from diverse walks of life. The Canadian Cohousing Network website ( provides information about locations, tours and other details.

An event that will appeal to those interested in cohousing takes place Friday, January 15 at 7 PM at the Abbotsford Recreation Centre, Rooms 2/3, 34690 Old Yale Rd. in Abbotsford. Call 1-604-823-7398 for more information. Architect Charles Durrett, who participated in the design of WindSong, will talk about cohousing and his most recent book, The Senior Cohousing Handbook.

A related solution to the challenge of isolation for seniors can be found at Abbeyfield Houses where 10 to 15 residents live like a large “family,” sharing meals and developing friendships. (

Visit your local community centre: You’ll be surprised at the innovative food-related programs that have sprung up throughout BC. See sidebar for examples.

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of nutrition classics Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Raising Vegetarian Children, the Food Allergy Survival Guide and The Raw Revolution Diet. For personal consultations, call 604-882-6782 or visit

Cooking up community at 
your local community centre

Fresh Choice Kitchens can help you find a community kitchen in your area, discover how to start such a project in your neighbourhood or gain food-related skills and resources. For information, visit or phone Diane Collis at 604-876-0659, ext. 118.

Trout Lake Cedar Cottage Food Security Network: learn about buying clubs, community gardens, community supported agriculture, drop-in programs that serve food and weekly recipe demonstrations with sampling and nutrition information. Visit and In other areas, call your local health unit and ask to speak to the community nutritionist.

Little Mountain Neighbourhood House offers cooking programs and potluck lunches for seniors. Visit or call 604-879-7104.

The Vancouver Food Providers’ Coalition lists numerous resources at

South Vancouver Neighbourhood House offers a cooking club and lunches; see or phone Carmen at 604-324-6212.

Through your local community centre or online investigation, you will find abundant opportunities to share meals with pleasant neighbours and potential friends.


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