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Denmark: sharing meals to fight loneliness. New friendships are born around the table

Isolation is a problem afflicting Danish society, young and old people in particular. This situation has led to the creation of a movement that brings together several NGOs, associations and churches, aimed at building relationships starting with a good meal. “For 2+2 can make 5”

Uno dei "pranzi contro la solitudine" organizzati di recente in Danimarca

Eating together is good for us. On these grounds the “Popular movement against loneliness” (Folkebevægelsen mod Ensomhed), set up in Denmark, has launched the campaign “Danmark spiser sammen”, Denmark eats together. It all began in 2015 after the publication of the findings of the survey: “Loneliness in the population: presence and methodological considerations”, commissioned by the Mary Foundation, coordinated by Mathias Lasgaard (University of Southern Denmark) and Karina Friis (Aarhus Universitet).


There was the need for something new… The Mary Foundation – created in 2007 by princess Mary of Denmark, Australian wife of the Crown Prince Frederik, with the money received by the Danes as a wedding gift – aims to combat social isolation and in particular bullying, domestic violence, loneliness. A 2015 survey, based on a sample of 33 thousand Danes evaluated on the basis of a questionnaire on the perception of social isolation, revealed that 4.6% of the population suffers from loneliness, namely, approximately 210 thousand Danes feel lonely. The majority – the survey revealed somewhat surprisingly – are young people aged 16-29 and those over 85. “Some NGOs in Denmark were engaged in combating loneliness, but it became evident that their efforts were insufficient and that it was necessary to do something different to obtain results,” Ania Stoltz-Andersen, of København, a communication agency that works for the Movement, told SIR.

“We firmly believed that the more the better and that 2+2 could make 5.”

60 member-associations. Thus a big symposium was organized in September 2014, to which were invited the major associations and NGOs engaged in combating loneliness in Denmark, to promote a joint reflection, identify the missing links and create a movement that could change the approach of the Danish people towards loneliness. The goal is “to reduce by half the proportion of Danes that feel lonely by 2020”, Stoltz-Andersen said. Some 60 participants confirmed their adhesion. These include the Red Cross, youth or old age organizations, associations of psychiatrists and of family members of Alzheimer patients, municipalities, initiatives of the Danish Church and of schools. “Denmark eats together: loneliness thrives in communities, but communities cannot develop alone” is the first initiative launched by the movement. “Sharing a meal is an opportunity to socialize with others, to strengthen existing communities and develop new ones,” reads the manifesto of the initiative.


A handbook. The first of a series of national events, still ongoing, took place past April 25. To date the initiative has involved “over 20 thousand people nationwide through 500 organized meals”, added Stoltz-Andersen. These figures lead to believe that “in the long run the meals will help make the first step to establish contacts with other people.” Anyone is free to join the campaign: partner organizations as well as private enterprises and schools have set the table and published their invitation on social networks as well as on the website along with

“a small handbook for the hosts and for the guests”, a facsimile of the invitation with the event’s logo and other information to spread the news.

There is also a map to find the nearest place with “a boiling pot”

From appetizers to songs. Christiane and Bodil told us they organized a dinner in their house on April 29, and 8 people unacquainted to each other registered for the evening meal which cost 7 euros. “We ate the appetizers and all was silent. Then the first course came in and we started introducing ourselves. That’s when everything began. Sven-Erik sang a song, Mike read a poem and when the second course arrived we had already begun swapping seats and had toasted several times. The evening was supposed to be over at 10 p.m. But at midnight everyone was still there. Peggy and Mike are organizing the next dinner. Sven-Erik invited everyone for a picnic on the hills.” In Copenhagen on May 1st the event was transformed into the initiative “the world eats together”, with typical dishes of world countries. “Some organizations in particular, such as the Red Cross”, are focusing their efforts on non-native communities and their integration. There are no specifically-designed initiatives for them, but also in these communities there are those who suffer from loneliness and isolation, thus they are potential recipients of our initiative.”

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