When it comes to sharing food, we can’t always agree on the right time to do it, but when we can, it’s usually better to do so.
“Food exchange theory” suggests that food exchanges occur when we feel compelled to do something because we want to.
But when you’re doing a meal with your friends, it could be that the opportunity for food exchange is more important than the food itself.
“Equivalent exchange theory,” on the other hand, says food exchange will only happen when you have the same amount of food.
And when it does happen, it will only occur between the two of you.
What’s the difference?
“Equivalency” means that you can share something between you if you know the other person will like it.
“So it’s kind of a little bit of a slippery slope,” says Rebecca Farr, a food exchange expert and assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
“It depends on how far you can push the envelope of what’s acceptable in terms of what people are comfortable with.”
So which is it?
What’s right for you?
There are a couple of reasons why people are likely to agree that food exchange works when they do it.
First, it allows you to spend more time together.
It’s possible to spend an entire day doing something without having to leave home.
Second, it lets you bond.
“If I want to share something, it is OK to say, ‘I’m going to eat with you today and we’ll have some fun and have a good time,’ ” says Farr.
“And I think that’s the best thing about food exchange.”
And if you’re a social butterfly, you can also consider food exchange as a way to avoid social isolation.
You don’t need to share food with everyone to feel comfortable and feel like you belong.
“You don’t really have to be alone to feel good about your social life,” says Farg.
“But if you can’t get a social life, it becomes even more difficult.”