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Reconnecting neighbours through home cooked food.

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Table360.org, a new local social enterprise wants to solve the problem of isolation and disconnection within neighbourhoods, in a dramatic fashion through home cooked food. From Saturday 22nd September 2018, Table360 is conducting a virtual launch of its neighbourhood-based approach in Mullumbimby. Founder and Director, Selase Dugbaza is inviting all lovers of community in Mullumbimby, to take part in “the taste of village life” trial by listing portions of freshly prepared home cooked food, for sale through their web-based system.  “The idea of Table360 is that when you don’t feel like cooking, don’t have the time, or want something different, you’ll be able to search for “who’s cooking extra” in your neighbourhood”, Selase explained.

“The process of accessing the meal creates a natural opportunity for connection. The vision is to bring the feeling of village life to neighbourhoods by providing people with a reason to have simple, but frequent daily interactions with each other. According to Selase, through this level of interaction, social barriers will be broken down, neighbours will get to know each other, and neighbourhood bonds will be built. All the evidence from other community centred cultures where food trade exist at a local residential level is that social isolation and disconnection will decrease and fewer people will eat alone.”

The “loss of community” has been identified as one of the most common concerns among Australians, according to the prominent social researcher Hugh McKay. He laments that not knowing our neighbours has become an unfortunate cliché of urban life. “When we lose sight of our role as neighbours, the health of the neighbourhood suffers. And when the health of the neighbourhood suffers, we all suffer”.

Referring to the research by Hugh McKay into neighbourhood disconnection, Selase drew attention to the social changes that have taken place since the Industrial revolution. “With our lives increasingly lived away from our homes and neighbourhoods, there is far less opportunity for neighbours to get together and interact. We do more “over there” with other people and less “over here” with our neighbours. As a result, disconnection and isolation has increased in neighbourhoods”.

Regarding solutions, Selase points to the daily interactions around food that have been a central feature of highly connected communities for thousands of years. The food life is what we love about visiting places in South East Asia, like Vietnam, Indonesia, etc “The frequency with which we eat makes food a perfect vehicle for driving social connection. The over regulation of urban life in western countries, has killed off many opportunities for people to meet regularly and get to know each other. I think it’s very important to bring back to neighbourhoods, natural social activities that can resolve this isolation and disconnection. The process of getting and eating food on a daily basis is a definite part of the solution”.

When asked whether the growth of community groups and community activities over the years is not a move in the right direction, he explained that it has not stopped the bleed-out of life from neighbourhoods and that the tendency is still to live life away from neighbourhoods. “When we come back home from work or from our community groups, don’t we still just drive up to our driveways, dock our vehicle and disappear into the void of private activity inside”?

Do we need something along the lines of Table360 to get us crossing the street to each other’s houses more often?

Selase Dugbaza, Table360.