Do You Share?

In March 2012 a new initiative to share food was created in The Netherlands. The non-profit organization (Dutch) or ShareYourMeal started. On the platform a person can make known that he or she has prepared a meal and for a small fee one can pick it up. Dishes differ from a nice quiche to chocolate cake. Soon after ShareYourMeal was launched it gained momentum especially when traditional media such as newspapers, television and radio picked up on the initiative. On January 21st 2013 the Dutch television program Tegenlicht broadcasted an episode called ‘The Strength of the Citizen’. In this episode ShareYourMeal was discussed. In January 2013 it already had 26.000 participants and approximately 150 meals a day were shared. However, what struck me during the broadcast was the social impact this food sharing network started to have. Questions on how well do we know our neighbors nowadays were raised i.e. the absence of social cohesion in neighborhoods.

This is especially true when we compare the situation regarding social cohesion in city neighborhoods to more nostalgic ideas on small towns and social cohesion. People in villages always seem to know their neighbors, or so they say, and if you are from a village you maybe have experienced this yourself. Whether there actually is a difference in social cohesion between neighborhoods in cities or villages remains to be seen. However, the fact that these stories exist and cities and towns are often discussed from a dichotomous perspective is a starting point to investigate social cohesion in the city (and towns) and to question the relation between towns and cities (perhaps a dichotomous perspective is not fruitful at all). This question, whether the nostalgia is a constructed ideal, a social reality or perhaps both, is one that I will clarify before the creation of my project starts.

The goal of this project is to increase social cohesion in city neighborhoods; similar to the social cohesion we see, read and hear about going on in village neighborhoods, through the creation of a food sharing network. To reach this goal we need to dig in the meaning of social cohesion and especially the role of social cohesion in the city. To research this I am collaborating with ShareYourMeal, we are creating a mobile application which can be used to easily share food. My focus, besides on the design and testing of the app, will be on what using the app can mean potentially for social cohesion.