Written by Yasmin Noone. Published by SBS Food on December 8 2017.
December can be one of the most joyous times of the year: a time for family, festivities and feasting. But what happens when this annual joy is something you witness happening to others, only to go without food or friends yourself?
“Christmas is great if you have food and an extended family, just like the celebrations we see happening on the [supermarket] television ads, where the table is piled high with turkey and ham, and everyone’s smiling and hugging each other,” says Brendan Lonergan, CEO of Beehive Industries.
“Now shoot that same scene again in a housing commission flat and it’s just one person sitting alone, with little or no food: it doesn’t look anywhere as joyful, does it?”
This darker picture, where people go hungry or face isolation as Christmas, Hanukkah and other celebrations approach, is a real – and unavoidable – issue for many across the country, including those who attend the non-profit organisation’s Beehive centre in Sydney’s Darlinghurst.
“We close down for two weeks for Christmas because the staff here simply need to have a break,” says Lonergan about Beehive staff who run activities to look after socially isolated Sydneysiders.
“We had a lot of our folks [who come to see us regularly] crying about the shut-down because we are not going to be here and that means, during the season, they might be on their own with got nothing to do.”
The truth about hunger and social isolation in the city led the folks at Beehive to team up with fellow non-profit and anti-poverty advocacy group, RESULTS, to host a Christmas-themed event called ‘Share a Bowl’ at the centre yesterday.
“The idea behind Share a Bowl was to give [the clients] the skills they need to cook a healthy meal for themselves on a low budget, but also to teach them that if [you cook this way], you can afford to invite a person over for a meal, even if you are on a limited income yourself.”
“There are a hell of a lot of lonely people out there and food is a simple way to connect with them and show them that there are people out there who really do care.”
The event involved a low-cost cooking class given to around 60 people, aged up to 90-years-old and hailing from a broad spectrum of countries, including Russia, India, Fiji and China.
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