Through a partnership with Loving Spoonful, local poverty reduction program Circles Kingston is on a mission to build community around people who are on a journey out of poverty using the format of a weekly meal.
Started in January 2018, Circles Kingston offers the Leaders program, where participants make plans to enhance their economic situation and work towards self-sufficiency goals by completing 16-module program called Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World. They are matched with middle- and upper-income volunteer mentors, called Circle Allies, who complete poverty awareness training.
Together, they prepare and eat a meal together once a week. The communal experience is open to anyone, and is meant to actively build community and skills around healthy food.
The food is fresh surplus Loving Spoonful has reclaimed from local farms, grocery stores, and restaurants. The collected vegetables, fruit, baked goods, meats, dairy products and healthy prepared foods that would otherwise go bad must pass Loving Spoonful’s Healthy Food Guidelines, and must be fresh enough that they would feed it to their own families.
“It’s food that is good enough for anybody, and it’s for anybody,” according to Loving Spoonful community programs manager Lilith Wyatt. “We’re doing what we can to increase access to healthy food in an easy and dignified way. You don’t need to prove your need. You don’t need to prove your poverty.”
Wyatt described Circles as a multilayered collaborative effort to fight food insecurity and poverty, citing inefficiencies of traditional charity models solely based off of a privileged group of people providing something to another group who are in need.
The benefits of Circles’ programming aren’t just limited to those living in poverty, said Wyatt, who said that volunteers, food delivery drivers, and other community members involved in the program are “delighted by how much it makes them feel connected to the community and nourished in one way or another.”
Wyatt described the meals as a mycelium network nourishing the community, and said “the purpose of connecting people with good food radiates in all directions.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with Circles can contact them on the Loving Spoonful Website, Circles Kingston Facebook page, or by email at [email protected].