Crawford Bay students get together to cook, eat and talk about substance use and healthy communities!

Last fall a group of students in Crawford Bay took a Selkirk course in Advanced Computer Skills.  When they found out about the Dinner Basket Conversation Project, they were keen to host a dinner party and launch into this provocative discussion about health and substance use. Jai English volunteered to host the dinner party and picked up a basket of groceries,  a recipe for Lemon Lentil Soup and a discussion guide.

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Some students at Selkirk have commented that people don’t very often take the time to cook and eat sit down meals together.  It seems that when people share meals it also provides time to share ideas.  The Crawford Bay crew pulled together with a fun evening of food and conversation and here are some of their comments and insights on cooking, eating and talking together:


There was a tolerance for exploration and an opening to learning from each other.  There was a leveling of the playing field as we all “broke bread together.”

Most often in our lives we are insular and habituated socially – this event shows how to bridge that.

The connection between sharing meals and creating community was one of the strengths of early Christianity.  It behooves our modern families and society as a whole to remember the value and healthy outcomes from “dinner time.”

Good healthy food naturally connects to healthy conversation.

Here are some of the elements that drew the groups towards great dialogue:

The beautifully set candle-lit table:


Cooking Together:


The discussion questions written up on a chalk board:


and here is the group feasting together:


Jai wrote down some of the key points from their discussion:

What are “substances?”

  • something that takes you out of your frame of mind
  • something that changes levels of consciousness
  • sometimes used for treatment: LSD for alcoholism,  MDMA for couples therapy, Ayahuasca for addiction
  • Sometimes substances give a chance to bond and reach across social boundaries

Advice re: Substance Use:

  • Be informed about what actually happens in the brain with various substances
  • Know the quality, quantity and safety issues for different drugs
  • People need to learn their own limits, but do have a DD and figure out how to pace your self
  • If we have a life we love, it gives us motivation to balance ourselves.
  • Find your passions.  If you are hungover you are not productive – if you love your work then you want to be sober
  • Find mentors and support people that you can have open dialogues with
  • Take part in multi-age events that are fun and incorporate more than just drinking and drugs
  • Balance brings you to your goals
  • It is never too late to get help if you have problems.


  • often starts with a problem – like wanting more confidence
  • a psychological need and often complicated by guilt and fear
  • we need less stigma
  • its never too late to stop the cycle
  • we need to talk about what we’re going through – sharing our stories helps us feel connected.

What schools, colleges and communities can do to encourage healthy relationships with substances:

  • Access to information: condoms, drug awareness, detox support
  • Create open spaces to discuss emotions, issues, personal experiences
  • Educate about mental health and emotional intelligence
  • Help people learn how release pressure – breathe, dance, stretch, go outside, yoga, massage, stress reduction, meditation, art
  • Explore how to create a “home” feeling
  • Encourage support – peer to peer dialogues and check-ins
  • Level the playing field:  Help mentors, instructors, peers to all feel that they can support/listen and share difficulties
  • Address the need for Rites of Passage – welcoming youth as an integral part of society.

And here are a couple last great reflections on substance use from this rich and thoughtful discussion:

Great time meeting with mixed community members and friends to exchange ideas about substance use in a friendly, inviting setting.

It seemed to me that the issue kept coming back to communication – that if people interacted openly and discussed all manner of things and participated in things that sparked their interest, they would have a myriad of things to do, places to go, projects to pursue.  The concept of “fun” and “entertainment” would expand exponentially beyond substance use.

I would like to continue with this theme and maybe host a community dialogue too so that many more of our society can share and see and inform and connect.

I enjoyed getting together with community members around an enjoyable meal to explore a very real phenomenon that we have all experienced. We will continue to have these conversations with our children and colleagues.

Thanks so much to all of the Crawford Bay students for sharing their wonderful insights and to Jai for hosting a lovely dinner party!

If any other Selkirk Students or Staff would like to host a Dinner Basket Conversation please e-mail or


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