Guest Opinion: Keeping your table community-centric throughout the year

“And the tree was happy.”

Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree

Meryl Gwinn. File photo
Meryl Gwinn. File photo

By Meryl Gwinn

It’s a particularly heartwarming time of year, a grand chance to gather our favorite people and celebrate with shared company and warm meals. Lasting memories are built around the holidays, like the time we over-baked the rolls and then improvised a neighborhood pick-up street hockey game with charred Pillsbury pucks, or the time I ruined Thanksgiving by introducing my family’s Polish vodka and raw oyster shooter tradition to unsuspecting palates, but I digress. Near the soul of these special gatherings is always food. Feed the people and they will come.

For some time now, my foodie friends and I have experimented with collaborative meals using produce that is home-grown, foraged or purchased from a local, loving source. We invite people from our different circles to enjoy foods together that are exclusively near, seasonal and economically wise. The result has been uplifting, and thus was born this article, and the decision to join the small-scale community centered movement, “Feed Your People.” (This movement has a presence on Facebook as well as a blog on WordPress.)

The idea is this: I grow chard, kale and tomatoes. You have avocado and pomegranate trees. And the bread man at the farmers market bakes the freshest loaf this side of the 405. In this format, a meal is built around our resources, and a radical sense of survival, creativity and innovation is felt in participation. Simple wholesome foods and using what’s naturally available gives a great sense of gratitude and connection to our little towns. It seems that fresh food breeds fresh ideas.

Next is the expansion of the dinner table. In the shared meal setting we are nourishing ourselves with so much more than what is on the menu. It’s the coming together of like minds with different experiences for connection, potential growth and just the chance to get to know our neighbors. Additionally, it’s a fine time to impress guests with a creative new dish—maybe one picked up from transplants who have relocated here from all over the world, or from a favorite local food blogger, such as Michelle Winrich at Sharing is caring, and there are so many chances to expand our traditional norms here inside our southwestern melting pot.

Exemplary models of “Feed Your People” include local food drives, adopt-a-family programs for the holidays, buying from small local businesses and, most simply, sharing backyard harvests. I recently discovered the grassroots company, Organics Out Back. Not only do owners Chris and Genevieve Garcia design beautifully healthy gardens, but they personally donate extra bounties to shelters and food banks, giving excess vegetables feed to someone who cannot afford them. It was through a mutual dislike for wasting and an abundant surplus of produce that they came up with the program. They also support the kind option of planting a “giving tree,” whose total bounty goes to a program the planter chooses. “Feed Your People” loves this. How often do we see a fruit tree’s harvest litter the ground uneaten? In the case of a wide-scale outage or other event that disrupts our ability to purchase groceries, these guys could be saving our system. Visit to learn more about them.

The encouragement here is to keep the concept we experience during the holidays—one of sharing food, company and making a better effort to take care of our neighbors by buying locally, growing personally, and sharing abundance—going all year long. Perhaps new traditions arise from expanding family past the immediate, and giving the gift of compassion and nourishment from earth, to tree, to table.

Meryl Gwinn has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology, and has studied yoga, health, food and humans around the globe. She is a constant pursuer of natural medicine and whole-healing solutions. Gwinn welcomes reader feedback at

In an effort to provide our readers with a wide variety of opinions from our community, the DP Times provides Guest Opinion opportunities in which selected columnists’ opinions are shared. The opinions expressed in these columns are entirely those of the columnist alone and do not reflect those of the DP Times or Picket Fence Media. If you would like to respond to this column, please email us at

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