Research is revealing the negative impacts of eating alone. So it’s cheering that hundreds of food sharing initiatives have sprung up, write Anna Davies, Agnese Cretella, Monika Rut, Stephen Mackenzie and Vivien Franck
Eating alone, once considered an oddity, has become commonplace for many across the western world. Fast food chains are promoting eating on the go or “al desko”. Why waste time in your busy day to sit down at a table with others?
Surveys indicate that a third of Britons regularly eat on their own. Open Table, an online restaurant-booking app, found that solo dining in New York increased by 80 per cent between 2014 and 2018. And in Japan, the world capital of solo dining, a trend for “low-interaction dining” has taken off. Restaurants are opening that facilitate the ultimate solo dining experience: passing bowls of noodles through black curtains into individual booths.
Is this a worrying trend? We think so. Research is revealing the negative impacts of eating alone, which has been found to be linked to a variety of mental and physical health conditions, from depression and diabetes to high blood pressure. So it’s cheering that hundreds of food sharing initiatives have sprung up around the world which aim to improve food security and sustainability while combating loneliness.
There’s London’s Casserole Club, for example, whose volunteers share extra portions of home-cooked food with people in their area who aren’t always able to cook for themselves. Or South Africa’s Food Jams, social gatherings in which participants are paired up, preferably with strangers, and given a portion of the meal to prepare. Such initiatives offer lessons of all kinds to those thinking about how our food systems need to change. This is why we have been researching them, in our several ways, for the last few years.