“Family time around the table“
Letter to Friends around the World # 89

In 2011 the Buenos Aires Food Bank, Argentina, started a new inter-agency programme called “Family time around the table“. The programme targeted the most excluded families, who we hadn’t been able to reach up until that point.

This proposal took two years of preparation because it was necessary to find a new way of working: starting with families and community centres, and not with institutions. “Family time around the table“ led us to look for support in places we hadn't previously explored, and this in turn led to meetings and the realisation of the need to work together.

We think about food in its social context: the kitchen table is a space to meet, to speak and to communicate between family members. In cooking their own meal, in setting the table, and in celebrating social ties around a meal, people become more self-confident and get stronger. Children and adults alike grow as these ties are made, and also through the recognition of the dignity of each person. “All 6 of us eat at the house every day, whereas before, at the weekend we didn’t eat, and during the week the children just had lunch at the community centre.“ (Josefina, a mum at the Mothers and Toddlers centre).

We work to strengthen the families' and mums' group. The members of this group take part in all the meetings and look out for those who are absent: “Her two children are in hospital with bronchitis – we should go and see her and see how she’s doing.“ (A mum from the Zamora Lomas Centre.) “We are going to start painting the nursery in the centre, but we should all be there so that it’s not always the same people who participate.“ (A mum from the Conin Centre).

Some of them have started studying again: “I’d like to finish secondary school. Now when I get good results and see that I’m progressing, I realise that I can do it, that we all can. I now have the right words to defend my point of view, and everyone can see that I’ve changed.“ (Laura, a mum from the Zamora Lomas Centre).

The activities are put forward by the families. They organise different workshops between themselves and the centres.

The programme aims to strengthen family cohesion through mealtimes, through gaining new skills, in building links, in reinforcing self-esteem, and letting local people take the initiative.

Marisa G., Food Bank Foundation and Cecilia L., Losano Foundation, Argentina