"It’s not where you live, but those that are around you that are important”
Posted by Johanna Brooks on 9th May 2022
Anna is part of our 2022 Multiplier programme – a national programme that invests in, supports and connects community leaders from across the UK who are helping to reduce loneliness, build connection and bridge divides in their communities.
Anna is the founder of Food Friends. Built on her passion for food and to help reduce social isolation and loneliness in her local community, Anna created Food Friends to provide an opportunity for intergenerational connection, friendship and togetherness.
This #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, Anna shares what motivated her to start Food Friends, and how - when shared with friends - food can provide more than just nutritional nourishment…
Anna, founder of Food Friends
I have always valued community. My grandma used to say: “you know Anna, it’s not where you live, but those that are around you that are important”. She was so right; physical connection is what makes us human and gives meaning and value to our lives. Yet, despite these pearls of wisdom fed to me from a young age, some years ago, I found myself living in Whitstable on a conveyor belt of kids…work…sleep…(mainly no sleep) repeat. I was consumed by the busyness of my life and unaware of my wider community - until I met June - a remarkable local lady in her 80s.
June lived alone in the centre of Whitstable, and despite the hubbub of the town, she often felt lonely amongst the masses. The relationship that we developed was mutual, benefiting both June, who felt disconnected in the town she had always known, and myself - dealing with the stresses of juggling a young family, and my identity as a mother. Despite the 53 years between us, we formed a strong connection; a friendship that helped me through those challenging years when my children were young. Meeting June, her friendship, stories, and honesty, made me see the value of connecting with someone that wasn’t on that same conveyor belt, someone who had been there, done that and got the t-shirt. So, in 2019, fuelled by my experience, I embarked on the mission to set up Food Friends.
Food Friends combats isolation and loneliness in communities through food and friendship. Our innovative meal sharing initiative connects volunteers – who are willing to deliver an extra portion of their home-cooked food – with a neighbour - who would benefit from a nutritious meal and a doorstep chat. Food is a fantastic way of bridging divides across communities. The volunteering opportunity is simple, uniquely rewarding and built on people’s love of food and its ability to connect those in a community who would otherwise never cross paths. The gift of a meal is so much more than the ingredients on a plate. It’s nourishment beyond nutrition because it brings kindness and connection, which is exactly what lies at the heart of the Food Friends model.
To date, we have recruited over 100 volunteer cooks in the Whitstable area who have delivered thousands of home-cooked meals. I’m thrilled to be a Cares Family Multiplier, working with others across the country who share my passion for community and connection. With their support I hope to be able to take Food Friends from strength to strength, to support other communities across Kent to connect through meal sharing.
Just to let you know, my friendship with June continues to grow, and nine years down the line she still provides me with much-needed support and guidance, ensuring that I don’t accidentally step back on that conveyor belt of kids…work…sleep…repeat. Here’s to many more years of friendship with June.