In Calais, cooking together is a respite from life
Nothing beats catching up with friends and family over a hot meal. Restaurants are opening again and many of us are looking forward to sharing food with the people we love for the first time in months.
Imagine how much it means refugees in Calais to share food together. It’s a respite from the hardship and stress of daily life. Cooking and eating together brings peace, companionship and a little bit of normality.
Just the cooking is so important. It gives people a powerful feeling of agency and control over their lives. For refugees, whose choices are so limited, being able to cook their own dinner is such a boost to their physical and mental wellbeing.
The alternative is queuing up for state-issued sandwiches – like school dinners or prison rations. The paltry allowance people in the camps get – a ham and cheese sandwich (even though some of them are Muslims), a yoghurt and an apple – is nowhere near enough to last a day. Imagine if that was your daily meal, every single day.
That’s why the food packs we distribute are full of ingredients that people can cook with. We give them halal chicken, tinned fish, rice, pasta, beans, vegetables, tinned tomatoes, oil… It’s a huge logistical effort – we can give out up to 350 food packs in a day, seven days a week. And it’s by far our biggest expense.
But it is so worth it. Sometimes we get invited to join groups of refugees around their stoves as they prepare food. It’s a privilege to spend some time with them, watching them skillfully turning basic ingredients into flat breads, stews and delicious sauces. Sharing a smile, a joke, a bit of conversation while they do it. For a moment, life almost seems normal.
Distributing healthy, nutritious food is the most important thing we do in Calais. It means so much more than simply keeping people fed. It costs just £10 to provide a pack that a family of four can cook with for four days. If you can afford to, please consider buying a food pack for a refugee family here.