There is nothing better than feeling like you fit in.
As a kid, we moved around a lot and every September I started a new grade at a new school. I did not mind finding my way around a new building or meeting new teachers and classmates, but getting through the lunch period petrified me. All morning I worried myself about, “Who would I eat with? Would I have to eat alone?” Lunchtime weighed heavily on my little mind.
I will always remember my first week of third grade. It was lunchtime at my new school and I made my way to the cafeteria. As I was moving through the line to get a carton of milk, a girl in a pretty sundress came up to me. “You’re new here, aren’t you? “ I nodded, hesitantly. She said, “Come eat with us.”
Right then, right there, everything shifted and I was no longer worried about how to fit in. I was back to being my happy and carefree 8-year old self as I felt I belonged.
Fast-forward forty or so years. As a registered dietitian, I talk about eating all day long, yet eating alone still bothers me. At my workshops, I break the ice by reminding participants that we have something very important in common: we all eat and we do it best together. Because what I know is that people like to eat, and they like to talk about it. Ask a stranger anywhere in the world what or where he likes to eat, and chances are he will open up. I call it the “Breaking Bread Phenomenon” as no matter where you go, no matter what culture you visit, no matter what spiritual tribe you belong to, there is a community bond…there is a reverence around eating and sharing food.
Even recent research has caught up to this cultural wisdom. Families who eat together are healthier. Data suggests that family mealtime has a wealth of health benefits, especially for children. People who eat more meals together tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, and eat less junk food. Social improvements are also linked to eating together. Teens who eat at the family table are more likely to show fewer signs of depression as compared with teens who dine less often at home.
Food can be a magnet that pulls us together. Sharing food cultivates love, compassion and giving among those around us. It develops and deepens our bonds of family, friendship and community. It supports our health beyond nutritional benefits. How can you use food this week as a vehicle for your transformation to strengthen yourself, your relationships and your community?
What can you do? Organize a healthy potluck at your place of work or worship this week. Gather friends and family and share a Sunday meal. Invite someone to enjoy lunch with you today. “Break bread” and give thanks for the simple, yet sacred occasion of sharing a meal together…because it helps all of us to feel like we fit in.
What did you do this week to Break Bread? Share and inspire us all below.