Stephen Jardine: Gift of a meal on Christmas Day

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jane Barlow

Stephen Jardine. Picture: Jane Barlow

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THE greatest feast of the year is almost with us. We’ve moved a long way from the days when the shops closed for days on end and Christmas was an exercise in planning and stockpiling.

Nowadays, a few shops even open on 25 December, but that doesn’t detract from the feeling that, in an increasingly busy world, Christmas offers a special chance for the world to pause and celebrate together.

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However we choose to mark the occasion, food and drink plays a central role. From the office Christmas lunch to mince pies after the Watchnight Service and the great meal on Thursday, we celebrate with our stomachs.

Over the period, 10 million turkeys will be served up across the UK. It’s a bumper time for our poultry producers and also for pig farmers faced with an insatiable demand for chipolatas and sausage-meat stuffing. The seafood industry also enjoys a seasonal boost, with salmon, prawn and lobster sales always highest at this time of the year, as we push the boat out and spend a little more.

Of course, not everyone has that option. Two years ago in this column, I reported that the Trussel Trust food bank had fed 200,000 people in 2012. Last year, that figure had reached 350,000 and this year it is almost one million. In a landmark year for Scotland, the spread of food banks has been a shameful reminder that in food, as in everything else, society remains divided between the haves and the have nots.

But it wouldn’t be Christmas without some good news. Alongside the sterling work done by the food banks, some outstanding individuals are taking on the issue of people still being hungry in 2014. This column is devoted to them.

JP Campbell started out selling soup from a van in Edinburgh, with every purchase helping homeless people. In the past year, his business has evolved into One Feeds Two, which challenges the food industry to donate a school meal to a child in poverty for every item sold carrying the initiative’s logo.

Backed by Sir Richard Branson, it has already attracted the interest of a range of major brands.

For putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to charity at Christmas, you can’t beat Social Bite. In the past year, the sandwich shop chain, which employs people from homeless backgrounds and donates all profits to charity, has expanded.

On Thursday, two of its shops will open specially for homeless people, offering them a free dinner on Christmas Day. So far, more than 7,000 members of the public have bought vouchers to help make that happen. That is the true spirit of Christmas.

Whatever you have planned, enjoy this special feast and the chance it gives us to focus on friends, family and wonderful food. But let’s also spare a thought for those less fortunate and the good people trying to help. To them and to you, Happy Christmas.

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