Alida Thomas has been thinking about food differently lately. She didn’t get a new cast iron frying pan or start working her way through a whole cookbook; she’s been thinking about the way community is shaped around shared meals. How we centre weddings and funerals, happy times and sad times, around eating together. This has been on her mind since she started giving through Share Your Table.

A new monthly giving program from MCC Canada, Share Your Table provides food for displaced families around the world. Nearly 71 million people are displaced around the planet—the highest than at any point in history. While the causes and solutions to displacement are complicated, generosity isn’t. With a donation starting from just $7 a month, MCC provides food where there isn’t any. Each month, donors receive a story from a family helped by donations like theirs, along with recipes shared from dinner tables in that family’s region. One such recipe is beef wat. This rich hearty stew is a common staple on dinner tables in Ethiopia, where Nyadieng Gach Gatkouth lives as a refugee since being displaced from her home in South Sudan. Thomas says the thought of sharing a meal at someone’s table, being a distant dinner guest, added a layer of personal empathy to her giving.  

Nyadieng Gach Gatkouth, 21, and her one-year-old daughter Nyamal Deng Lam, receive MCC canned turkey each month. The Jewi Refugee Camp, where they live, is located along the Ethiopia/South Sudan border and hosts 62,000 refugees who have fled the ongoing war in South Sudan.  MCC photo/ Rose Shenk

“What stood out to me from the very beginning was the holistic approach,” says Thomas. “Share Your Table is thinking about people as whole people—not just people who need food. They’re full people aside from their immediate needs.”

 What stood out to me from the very beginning was the holistic approach,” says Thomas.  “Share Your Table  is thinking about people as whole people—not just people who need  food. They’re full people aside from  their immediate needs.”

Thomas says if she could share a meal from her table with someone like Nyadieng, there is no doubt what would be on the menu.

“I come from a Dutch background, so it’s this dish called stamppot” she says. “Mashed potatoes, carrots and onions all smashed together—some people do it with kale. You can add farmer sausage or rookworst. It’s like Dutch comfort food that always reminds me of being a kid. I also remember eating it a lot during university and grad school.”

Stamppot is one of Alida Thomas' favourite Dutch dishes. It's made with mashed potatoes, carrots and onions all smashed together. 

After receiving her master’s degree with focuses on refugee and forced migration studies and international human rights, Thomas has worked in international development and relief. She says its easy to feel helpless when faced with such daunting numbers of people in need. She’s often asked herself what can ever be done to help that many people. But hope, she says, is worth working for.

Alida and Nick Thomas in Bergen, Norway, where they travelled to visit friends in May 2019. (Photo courtesy of Alida Thomas)

“Those are 71 million stories, 71 million dreams, 71 million networks of relationships, 71 million people with unique skills, capacity, and agency, and 71 million people made in the image of and dearly loved by God,” she says. “If we each do our part— individually, communally, nationally—to generously care for and walk with as many of those 71 million as we can, we can transform that number.”  

Learn more about MCC Canada's Share Your Table