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1. Can sharing meals increase social capital?

This project aims to look at the social and health value of the provision of meals shared at ethnically focussed-gatherings. The positive relationships, (termed 'Social Capital'), that individuals and groups share with each other are now regarded to be important to health and well-being. They are crucial for building trust, reciprocity and positive supports of human capacity. Social capital is especially important in those groups who feel not to be part of the mainstream social, community and language groups in which they live. Crucial to the sense of belonging in a new environment and host country is the ability to find others who come from the same or similar culture and language group.

2. Dinnertime Matters

Dinnertime Matters research will examine the outcomes of including in the curriculum of primary schools, a specific module for supporting shared eating and family meals. The research literature on families eating together strongly suggests that it has a beneficial effect on the quality of the diet of children, children’s risks of overweight and obesity, and overall family psychosocial wellbeing. The evidence suggests that there is room for more family time given to cooking and eating together.

3. Eating alone together

Research evidence suggests that for older people eating in company promotes positive health and wellbeing. These improvements are independent of the nutritional quality for the food being eaten. Most of the research has been carried out in sheltered or residential facilities. However, there is an increasing number of lone person households in Australia and overseas and the benefits of eating in company in this population has not been explored.  The ability to join virtual social groups that meet regularly on the internet using Skype or similar has been proven for a variety of meeting purposes, including language learning, arts and crafts and other skills development. Left unexplored are the possibilities of using the internet to promote social eating for those who are housebound, bedbound or socially isolated

4. Food security and impact on family life

This research will examine the perspectives of users of charitable food assistance programs to recommend aspects of program delivery that can address family food needs whilst maintaining the dignity and self-respect of family member recipients.

International literature confirms that in countries like Australia, more families are using charitable food services as a last resort, when all other avenues have been exhausted. Food charity, while necessary to bridge short-term needs, has a psychosocial impact, associated with a considerable degree of shame, stigma and humiliation and embarrassment. Consequently, not all families needing food relief step forwards to apply. Thus ways of making food assistance and food relief more appropriate for users is needed.

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