How Eating Together Strengthens Communities

Bella Bereczki’s project is based on learning about different people’s culinary cultures. The Aspect Group trainee from Pécs organized an inclusive group in which Roma and non-Roma tenth-grade students cooked together and then shared the prepared dishes in a friendly conversation. Her activities are inspired by her own experiences.

“I started going to a Krishna community in Pécs, which was a very new experience for me. I also ate together with other people, and the conversations during the meals were uplifting moments. I want to pass on this feeling to the young people who participate in the programs.” The first meetings were meant to get to know each other and brainstorm together. “I didn’t teach them to cook in the first place. I wanted to give them an experience that would make it more enjoyable for them to be self-sufficient later on. We prepared dishes together that evoked emotions because of the personal bond. It created a bond between us.”

The sessions also introduce them to a variety of culinary cultures. Bella will later use this as a tool to bring different social classes together, to learn about each other’s daily lives through cooking and eating habits. “It was important for me to find something that neither one group nor the other is more competent at, they are starting from the same beginner’s level and can learn together,” Bella explained. The participants also came to realize that not everyone struggles with the same problems.

The students were from the Apáczai Csere János High School and the Experience Centre (Élmény Tár) in Pécs, and the sessions were held in the after school program (called tanoda in hungarian) in Pécs – Gyárváros. “It was difficult to find institutions open to participation. My first idea was also thwarted by the fact that it was not easy to find a place for the cooking sessions due to the strict rules of the canteens.” Bella eventually successfully overcame both obstacles, holding her first event in January. 

“I have experienced the walls that communities face as NGOs. If you want to achieve something good, if others don’t cooperate, it won’t work,” Bella concluded. For the last time, she plans to cook with the Pécs Bike Mafia. The food, prepared together with the high school students, will be delivered by volunteer couriers to those in need.

Bella would also like to continue to work with NGOs in the future, providing food and growing herbs and other ingredients. She is interested in self-sustainable living, producing her food and permaculture. And she would like to combine this with social work.

“Being together with people who are different but working towards the same goal, creating an environment where you can rely on each other, these are really important things.”

In the Aspect Group’s training and internship program (funded by EU), after training, twenty interns started to implement their own projects. We interviewed them in our series.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.