Make a meal of it

Big Issue North’s new 2022 calendar shows that food is more important than simply filling us up

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Big Issue North has launched its 2022 calendar, on sale now from your local vendor or our online shop, at just £5.

This calendar features recipes for each month of the year, created in partnership with the brilliant team at FareShare Yorkshire, part of FareShare UK. The recipes are designed with affordability, seasonality and, of course, taste in mind. Where possible, the dishes can be cooked in one pot or baking tray and require little fuss.

The recipes are inspired by the food our vendors most treasure. We asked 12 of them to tell us about the meals they love and why. In each response there lies a memory or good feeling that is stirred when they think of this particular dish.

But in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the depths of the UK’s food insecurity crisis have been exposed. Now, with benefit cuts and soaring fuel prices, people on low incomes are facing a difficult winter. Many of our vendors will struggle to afford the food they need and be forced to rely on food banks.

Food insecurity is something that affects a vast number of our vendors. It is not just the inability to afford or have access to food. It can also be a long-term experience of not having facilities to prepare a healthy diet. Food is often sacrificed for essentials such as rent and utilities.

The impact of food insecurity is more far reaching than the physical effects of being hungry. According to Cambridge University researchers, people living with food insecurity reported higher rates of stress and poor mental health when compared with food-secure adults. Studies also found food insecurity to cause feelings of isolation, stigmatisation and shame among those experiencing it.

Beef stew is the dish inspired by Sabina (above) for the 2022 calendar. Drawing by Ruth Tuck

According to our latest audit, 29 per cent of vendors have used a food bank and 30 per cent have used soup kitchens. This is compared with an estimated 8 per cent of the general population. Men are much more likely to use these services than women, with 33 per cent of male vendors and 21 per cent of female vendors having used food banks, and 43 per cent of male vendors and 9 per cent of female vendors having used soup kitchens.

The positive effects of eating a beloved meal or cooking for your family can not be underestimated. For our vendors, like all of us, food is more than just a source of sustenance. Eating a meal can offer a chance to connect with people and to socialise.

For those who are experiencing homelessness, a meal often offers a moment to feel safer and warmer, and to feel part of a community. Research from Oxford University found that people who eat socially are more likely to feel better about themselves and have a wider social network, capable of providing social and emotional support.

Food can also be a means to remember your heritage, celebrate culture or recognise family tradition. Our vendors’ nationalities include Polish, Slovakian, Czech, Latvian, Italian and Romanian. Sabina, a Romanian vendor based in Leeds, said: “My mum taught me how to cook at the age of 18, as I was about to get married and had to learn to cook for myself. The first dish I learned how to cook was beef stew with rice. Now I am always cooking for my family. My favourite food is sarmale, a traditional Romanian dish.”

Every penny raised from selling our calendars goes either directly into our vendors’ pockets or is reinvested in support for them. Whether you buy online or directly from a vendor, you’re doing your bit to make a difference to someone’s life and helping us to do more to support people to earn an income.

Buy yours today from a vendor or online at shop.bigissuenorth.com.

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