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Wordsworth Dances with Daffodils

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Just as the daffodils are slowly fading away, replaced by colorful tulips, here is a poem by William Wordsworth to commemorate the beauty they bestow upon the waking planet each spring.

We planted about 40 daffodil bulbs in our front garden last fall. Amazingly, the sight of the yellow visage of a flower gladdens the heart and brightens the spirit.

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” or “Daffodils”

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed”and gazed ”but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

 

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

All photographs by Jane Grueber

Poem by William Wordsworth

See my photo gallery here.

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Inspirational Tuesday ~ Sage & Sage Tea

 

All plants are our brothers and sisters.
They talk to us and if we listen, we can hear them.

— Arapaho Proverb

This year, we planted many herbs in our garden. In fact, last count was 26. My familiarity with herbs is mostly culinary and limited to basil, chives, marjoram, oregano, cilantro and parsley. One of my missions this year is to get familiar with these 26 new herbs that I have enthusiastically purchased in order to understand their medicinal and healing potentials. Messages about the healing power of food are everywhere these days. I write about it in the context of real food helping people manage chronic conditions.

I knew when we got our urban garden going, herbs would, in many ways, take center stage. There are many herb and herbalist courses offered online which I have participated in. To be perfectly honest, much of the material covered in those courses was advanced and quite beyond my current understanding of herbs and their applications. It was clear that I needed to start educating myself about this vast field of knowledge from the beginning.

As I write about the different herbs in our garden, my hope is that I commit some of this information to memory or, at least, create a reference for beginning herb enthusiasts.

The information writen here is coalated from a number of sources (listed below) and is intended for reference and information purposes only. Consult a physician before taking or using herbs to treat any condition. 

Becasue we have a lovely sage plant growing in our backyard, there is no time like the present to learn more about it.

SAGE

Sage, or Salvia officinalis, is an aromatic herb which has been in use for thousands of years due to its healing and culinary properties. With over 750 species spread throughout the world, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Native Americans and the Chinese used it as an important ingredient for aromatic teas, healing infusions as well as ‘spiritual spring cleaning’. It contains many nutrients and oils that are being studied in the modern-day to discern its medical use and importance. Modern research shows that it slows the ageing process and it is being tested as a treatment for Alzheimer’s.

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Sage is known to be antiseptic, astringent, carminative, antispasmodic, and a systemic antibiotic.

In addition, Sage makes a lovely garden plant that is easy to grow in garden beds and containers alike. Sage flowers are also very good for attracting butterflies and bees to the garden throughout the summer months.

General Health Benefits and Therapeutic Uses

(See resources listed below for more detail)

Sage medicinal properties have been expressed for centuries by traditional healers and continue to be researched using modern methods today. A few of the benefits and uses are listed as follows:

  • Sage contains oils and compounds that give it antiseptic properties. It is commonly used as natural toothpaste to kill bacteria in the mouth. It can also be made as a paste for mouth infections. Some of the sage leaves benefits include its usage as a mouth freshener and a teeth cleanser.

  • Sage is also used as an astringent for the face, owing to its antioxidant and antiseptic properties.

  • Sage tea benefits include being able to heal mild cold and cough symptoms. Warm sage tea taken multiple times over the course of the day helps to ease congestion.

  • It is a well-known fact that sage when taken internally acts as an antiperspirant. It also doubles up as a deodorant or body wash. Owing to these properties, it is also used as a remedy for women who break out into cold sweat due to the onset of menopause. In addition, it can also help with the regulation of menstrual flow in women.

  • Sage leaf benefits include its antioxidant properties that are key to healthy cell life by preventing damage. Ongoing research is also being conducted to determine how sage supplements can benefit patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

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Common Names

Broadleaf Sage, Common Sage, Dalmatian Sage, Garden Sage, Kitchen Sage, Narrow-leaved sage, Sage, Salvia, Sarubia, Spanish sage, Tibbi Adacayi

Precautions

Sage should not be used by pregnant or nursing women or by people who have epilepsy.

The plant is toxic in excess or when taken for extended periods, though the toxic dose is very large.

Consuming large quantities of sage can possibly interfere with medications as well. If you have diabetes, heart trouble, or any other major illness, please consult your doctor about consuming sage in concentrated quantities.

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“Why should a man die in whose garden grows sage.” ~ Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum

Sage Tea

The botanical name for Sage comes from the Latin salvere “to save” because of its numerous beneficial properties. I became interested in sage after reading about the high number of 90-something-year-olds on the Greek Island of Ikaria. Sage grows wild on this island and is consumed in various ways.

Life on Ikaria is said to be slow and punctuated by tea time, local food, plenty of relaxation, minimal stress and plenty of rest. A higher than usual number of men and women live well past Western life expectancy.  Perhaps it’s the Mediterranean diet, the slow pace, the time dedicated to savoring life, or perhaps the Faskomilo (sage tea).

Greek Sage Tea, known as “Faskomilo” in Greece (pronounced “fahs KOM ee low”) has been long valued for its health benefits. In today’s world, authentic Greek sage leaves can be ordered from online companies. Various scientific studies have shown that it contains some of the highest antioxidant and medicinal properties in the world.

Although Greek Sage doesn’t grow in North America, other native North American sage grows easily in gardens and has many important ceremonial, medicinal and metaphysical uses. 

“Native Americans have harvested smudging plants for thousands of years. The tradition of using Salvias, Artemisias and other native North American plants, as ceremonial smoke or in smudge pots for cleansing and purification continues within the Native North American culture today.” ~ Gabrielle, Shamans Market

BREWING INSTRUCTIONS

Pot method: Bring water to a boil, remove from heat, add a small handful of Sage leaves. Cover and allow to steep for approximately 3-7 minutes. Pour through a strainer into your cup.

Infuser method: Bring water to a boil, add a small handful of Sage leaves to the infuser of your choice, pour hot water over the infuser and allow to steep for approximately 5-7 minutes, remove infuser.

Sage can become bitter if allowed to steep to long. Best to start with less steeping and experiment.  Sweeten with raw honey.

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Image courtesy of Pexels.com

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

Resources

  1. McVicar, Jekka. (2010). Grow Herbs: An inspiring guide to growing and using herbs. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London.
  2. McVicar, Jekka. (2006). Jekka’s Complete Herb Book. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
  3. Website: ‘The Wisdom of North American Sage’ – Shamans Market
  4. Website: ‘Sage Benefits & Information’ – HerbWisdom
  5. Mohsen HamidpourRafie HamidpourSoheila Hamidpour, and Mina Shahlari (2014). Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Medicinal Properties of Sage (Salvia) to Prevent and Cure Illnesses such as Obesity, Diabetes, Depression, Dementia, Lupus, Autism, Heart Disease, and Cancer. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Apr-Jun; 4(2): 82–88.

 

All photographs by Jane Grueber except ‘Tea’ image courtesy of Pexels.com

Featured Image Credit Artisto ~ Original photo by Jane Grueber ~ Manipulations by @Clarityisjustsohip

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Walk in the Forest ~ Nature Photography

In honor of Earth Day (April 22). Every day is Earth Day. We are all stewards of this planet and must do everything to nurture our nature.

~

The spring rain brings out the most beautiful wild forest flowers. We went on a hike with a mission to seek out these meadows where fairies surely frolic and tend to the new arrivals.

Perhaps they shelter beneath the Fawn Lilies when the warm rains come so as not to get their wings damp. Little children create umbrellas from the lilies, too.

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Fawn lily is beautiful but shy, rarely showing her face. Like a patient mother, she bows to help the spring critters drink her nectar in a dry place.

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Purple shooting stars stand like lanterns that delight the eye and drawing near those who look upon them.

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In love and light, we meander through the misty morning woods. Our hearts filled with the scent of a forest awakening.

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

 

All photography by Jane Grueber Copyright 2017

Featured Digital Design by Artiso

Original Photograph of Hyacinths by Jane Grueber

Digital Manipulations by @Clarityisjustsohip

Location: Central Vancouver Island

See my photo gallery here.

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Want to Start your own Urban Garden? Get Inspired with These Essential Reads

When it comes to urban gardening and urban farming, it is clear that there is a lot going on.

“For the reasons of personal health, personal empowerment and the simple joy of growing, every person in every city needs the opportunity to grow at least some of their own food.” ~ Paul Peacock, author of The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

For those who are thinking about starting your own urban garden or even farm, here are a few books that are essential reads. They are filled with much inspiration and down right practical advice on how to get started and what to do with all those crops. I love these books. Our local library carries them and now they are a permanent part of my growing urban garden library.

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Our urban garden

In addition, community and non-profit groups are also essential for pushing change and working toward a more sustainable future.  Want to get involved or start your own? Here are some excellent examples of the food revolution:

  1. Food Secure Canada (foodsecurecanada.org)
  2.  Urban Farms/Non-Profit Organizations across Canada:
  3. Global Food Security (foodsecurity.ac.uk)
  4. Slow Food (slowfood.com)
  5. Global Eco-Village Network (gen.ecovillage.org)
  6. Transition Towns (transitiontowns.org)

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Essential Reads for the Urban Garden Revolutionary

Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space and Stuff

Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space and Stuff

“More of us are rethinking how and where food can be grown, leading to a surge in innovation and ingenuity. It;s a movement toward simplification and getting back to the land while incorporating modern technology to facilitate the process. The challenge is how to optimize this on a functional, daily basis. Modern life is too full-full of possessions, activities, news, and information. We have electronic screens in our homes, our offices, our cars, and even our pockets. Everywhere we turn, advertisements tout products that we ‘need’ to make us happy and fulfilled…More and more, people are seeking less and less-fewer objects, fewer activities, less (or at least better) news, more concise information.” ~ Kelly Wood, author of Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of your Money, Space, and Stuff

 

The Urban Farmer's Handbook

The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

“Food should be free. If I do my part I should hope that this planet of ours will sustain me. Indeed, experience says that it does, particularly in a climate that is neither too hot nor too cold, and has plenty of water. But I can hardly take advantaged of it because I am poor, although in the west I am comparatively well off.” ~ Paul Peacock, author of The Urban Farmer’s Handbook

 

The Essential Urban Farmer

The Essential Urban Farmer

“Urban farming is a way for people of all income levels to eat fresh, local, organic food.  I knew that I didn’t have enough money to buy organic produce or meat, and so I decided to raise it myself…Due to low incomes and lack of access to grocery stores, urban people fail to get the healthy nutrition they need.  A few packets of seeds costing less than twenty dollars can produce enough vegetables for a years worth of eating.” ~ Novella Carpenter, co-author of The Essential Urban Farmer

 

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities

‘Government has its role, but all deep change starts with changing our own thoughts and actions. We each make daily choices about what we eat, and we each have the power to change those choices. Governments, corporations, farmers, grocery stores, school cafeterias and restaurants all respond to the aggregated demand of individual people. When we change, they will too.” ~ Peter Lander, author of The Urban Food Revolution

The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities

The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities

The Food Activist Handbook: Big & Small Things You Can Do to Help Provide Fresh, Healthy Food for Your Community

The Food Activist Handbook: Big & Small Things You Can Do to Help Provide Fresh, Healthy Food for Your Community

Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution

Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution

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~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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A Walk in the Garden ~ Nature Photography

All photography by Jane Grueber

Full Photo Gallery 

I watch out of the front window as a gentle spring rain soaks the garden beds filled with seeds and seedlings. My camera and I cannot resist nature in its infancy or at its most divine peak.

The seductive smells of rain and the nearby forest as I wade among plum and cherry blossoms, hyacinths and daffodils fill me with profound gratitude for the infinite abundance all around.
The sage that was discarded at the garden shop is soaking up the rain and thriving.

The hyacinths are trumpeting their beauty and scent signaling the beginning of a season of delicious feasts.

Snails are making themselves very comfortable in the garden among the herbs. This granddaddy has his eye on me as I come in for a close up.

These purple delights are one of the first flowers to stand up and get my attention.
Plants put in the ground late last year are making their debut.
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Woolly Thyme returns, much to the delight of the snails. Perhaps its soothing for their sore foot.
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As I walk, my connection to the Earth deepens. I am grounded. The planet provides us with all we need to not only survive, but thrive.  Photographs help remind me of this truth.

What could we do without it?

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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Spring Delights ~ Nature Photography

Spring has been rather rainy this year and it has coaxed out the lush beauty that has been laying dormant. As we walked through the woods, it was impossible not to envisage fairies fluttering busily and gnomes working away on culverts beneath our feet.

The buzz of the bees overhead as we were playing in the yard was a sure sign of spring. Toiling eagerly, gathering nectar, flying back and forth from our flowers to their hive. It is no surprise. Such vibrant colours make us all stand up and take notice.

                      ~Grow~Share~Thrive~

All photographs by Jane Grueber

See more of my photographs at JaneGrueber.com/photograps/

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Inspirational Tuesday ~ Cultivating Wonder & Skill in the Garden for All Ages

Cultivating Wonder & Skill

One of my favorite how-to gardening books for children and their adults is Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy. It is a source of wonderful inspiration where everyone’s imagination can soar.

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children

Involving children in the process of cultivating a garden, growing their own food, understanding the necessary elements involved in growing successfully is really sowing seeds of knowledge and skill that last a lifetime.

“Twenty years ago on a sizzling hot day, I watched a grown-up teach a small group of children about gardening. The kids fidgeted and looked longingly toward the playground. They barely heard the teacher’s instructions as he said, ‘Dig a square of soil, mark some straight rows with string, drop each seed into a hole, cover, water and move on to the next row.’

I wanted to dive into the midst of the kids and share with them the countless miracles that could be found in a garden. And how every seed held the promise of flowers and fruits and all their attendant critters. I vowed then to someday write and illustrate a book that not only instructed, but also opened the eyes of both grown-ups and children to the many wonders in their own backyard.” ~ Sharon Lovejoy, pg xii

This book guides you through making a bee hive for Mason Bees, growing a pizza patch, bean tunnels, a night blooming garden, throwing Mother Nature’s Tea Party, creating Harvest Treats for the Birds and Bees, making a Sunflower Playhouse, brewing some Moth Broth, building a worm bin, creating a compost sandwich, making gifts from the garden and so much more. I absolutely adore this book and refer to it often.

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My hope is to one day have a piece of land to grow food and create a space with flowery mazes and sunflower homes for everyone in our community to enjoy. Perhaps all communities would benefit from creating functional, edible and playful spaces for people to gather, share and thrive. Connecting deeply with nature through an activity such as gardening restores balance; nature is the ultimate healer.

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Sharon Lovejoy’s idea to use tall flowers as supports for other flowers to wind around got my creative juices going.  I want to grow a ‘house of flowers’ for children and adults to while away their warm summer days enveloped in the sensory parade of grass and a rainbow of fragrant flowers, all creating a cool shelter within. Perhaps they can snack on the vegetables straight from the garden, too.

Here is an illustration of my plan. There are others out there, a ‘tent’ made with simple sticks tied together at the top with a wide, round base (think upside down cone) with flowers climbing all over the structure. I want to try tying fallen branches together to form a sort of lattice hut that supports a ‘curtains of flowers’.

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House of sticks and flowers ~ sunflowers and morning glories

In addition to creating this shelter, I know that our front yard garden will need some shade from the relentless summer sun as well as an attractive aesthetic. We need to create natural shade for some of the vegetables that enjoy the heat but not the direct sun. To achieve this, we  have Kong Sunflowers to plant around the entire garden a couple feet apart, tie strings from one Kong to another (once it’s grown) and grow leafy climbers such as Morning Glory or others up the Kong and hopefully across on the string.

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Using sunflowers and morning glories to create some shade over raised garden beds.

 

It is all an experiment and who knows where it will all lead. But without plans and dreams, where would the future be?

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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All photography by Jane Grueber.

See more my photo gallery here.

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Growing Urban ~ Raised Garden Beds are Ready

Where we live, a shovel going into the soil does not make it far. The clang of rocks and a sudden stop don’t make the ground a hospitable place for growing food without much augmentation and work to get the soil conditions right. I am not the patient type.

RELATED: Read more about our Urban Garden Project here.

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Our front yard last fall

My wonderful husband was charged with creating raised garden beds for our front lawn so that we could start our urban garden all on a Colt 45 budget. He went to the local saw mill and purchased 36 – 1 by 6 inch rough-sawn red cedar boards and five 4 by 4 inch posts (dimensional posts). In a couple of days, he built six 4 by 8 foot garden beds at a cost of $42 dollars each. The average retail price is over $200 dollars each.

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Our front yard Spring 2017

Although I filled the first garden bed with our own compost as well as purchased organic compost, it took a lot of dirt to fill one garden bed. To fill the other five, we will order some organic manure and soil from a local supplier.

Starting a garden this size is certainly an investment in the future. We have done it with budget at the front-of-mind. Sourcing wood directly from a local saw mill (there are plenty here on Vancouver Island), purchasing half-dead annuals and perennials at hugely discounted prices and using saved seeds from last year’s gardening exploits.

Herbs for the Garden

I have to admit I invested in some amazing medicinal herbs/vegetables from a local farm – Hazelwood Herb Farm. They are mostly perennials:

  1. American Arnica
  2. Betony
  3. Bistort (Shakeroot)
  4. Burdock
  5. German Chamomile
  6. Hedge Hyssop
  7. Horehound
  8. Lovage
  9. Lemon Balm
  10. White Yarrow
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Herbs purchased from Hazelwood Herb Farm

Upon the suggestion of Hazelwood Herb Farm, I ordered a copy of Jekka’s Complete Herb Book and await its arrival so that I can learn more about the world of medicinal herbs. If I’m going to grow all this stuff, it behooves me to know what it’s for, right?

Jekka’s Complete Herb Book

 

All that money and effort will hopefully pay off over the next 5 to 10 years as the perennials become established and annuals reseed themselves. I am motivated by the hope and promise of fresh, organically grown produce, including culinary and medicinal herbs. My sense of joy and inspiration are renewed with all the possibilities growing (or about to grow) in our urban garden.

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First Raised Bed is ready to Grow

Sowing Seeds

Our first raised garden bed now contains the following seeds and plants started on April 5, 2017:

  1. Hedge Hyssop (plant)
  2. German Chamomile (plant)
  3. White Yarrow (plant)
  4. Gaillardia (seeds)
  5. Sunflowers (seeds)
  6. Radishes (heritage seeds)
  7. Carrots (heritage seeds)
  8. Kale (heritage seeds)
  9. Cauliflower (heritage seeds)
  10. Cabbage (heritage seeds)
  11. Spinach (heritage seeds)
  12. Lettuce (heritage seeds)
  13. Peas/Beans (heritage seeds)
  14. Cucumbers (soon to be transplanted)
  15. Various Squashes (soon to be transplanted)

I ordered heritage seeds from West Coast Seeds and Heritage Harvest Seeds.

~Grow~Share~Thrive~ 

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Good Health Outcomes Start with Access to Good Food

“As there is enough food in the world, hunger is a result of political decisions. Food insecurity results from ineffective policies (social, agricultural, economic and health) at local, national and global levels  and from decisions which do not consider the elimination of poverty, hunger, and food insecurity, and the development of sustainable food systems to be priority issues.”

~Laura Kalina in Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide 2nd edition.

It is possible that all we need to sustain, nourish and heal grows on this planet. Equitable access to produce and food that has been grown or raised without off farm inputs is, in my opinion, a fundamental right, not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it. The United Nations has stated their position as such for a long time. Seventy years, in fact.

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Poor Health Outcomes linked to Food Insecurity

A 2016 report from an interdisciplinary research team at the University of Toronto (PROOF), Ontario, Canada worked with the British Columbia Provincial Health Ministry to determine what factors contribute to poor health and poor health outcomes in British Columbia.

They used information gathered from self-report Community Wellness Surveys (completed 2005-2012) to evaluate various factors affecting overall population health including mental health and physical health.

They found that one (of several) indicator linked to poor health outcomes was Household Food Insecurity – ‘households not being able to afford the nutritious food they need to either maintain good health or successfully manage chronic health conditions.'(1)

Where’s the PROOF?

The following 13 minute video beautifully sums up PROOF’s research findings regarding Household Food Insecurity in Canada. One of the researchers, Valerie Tarasuk, tells it like it is and it ain’t pretty.

My hope is that health professionals, allied health professionals, social workers, teachers, early childhood educators and others who work with families watch this video and take into consideration the seemingly innocuous, yet very real factors that affect ‘best possible outcomes’ when it comes to health and well-being.

Before pointing fingers and exclaiming NIMBY, PROOF found that 65 percent of people in British Columbia (and Canada) who could not afford to put balanced and nutritious meals on the table were working families.

The provincial health authority with the highest rate of food insecurity in British Columbia was the Vancouver Island Health Authority with food insecurity rates at 25 percent. Most numbers across British Columbia and Canada (with the exception of the Northern Territories which are significantly worse) hovered just over 10 percent.

Implications of Undernourishment

Given the significant implications of undernourishment, these numbers should be concerning. It is alarming that children living in Central Vancouver Island are almost twice as likely to have communication and cognitive difficulties as children living on mainland BC. Adults and children are also more likely to have chronic illnesses and life expectancy is just below the BC average.

Are these poor health outcomes the result of higher rates of food insecurity?  According to PROOF’s research, the higher the food insecurity, the poorer the health outcomes. In their report, they specifically state that “food security is fundamental and necessary for healthy eating” (pg. 4).

They go on to discuss the potential health and social challenges that may arise from household food insecurity:

  1. Birth outcomes and maternal health – poor nutrition during pregnancy can have a negative impact on both mother and infant.

  2. Child development – among Canadian children and youth, food insecurity is associated with iron deficiency anemia and has been linked to the subsequent development of a variety of chronic conditions, including asthma and depression. According to PROOF, A Quebec study observed a two-fold increase in the likelihood of persistent hyperactivity/inattention among children eight years old and younger who experienced food insecurity between ages one and a half and four and a half years, even after accounting for family socioeconomic circumstances and parental mental health. In central Vancouver Island, preschool children were almost twice as likely as children from the rest of BC to be at risk for poor communication and cognitive outcomes (language delay, reading, writing and numeracy skills) based on the Vancouver Island Local Area Profile from 2014.

  3. Health Status and Chronic Diseases – food insecure individuals report higher levels of poor or fair self-rated health, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, food allergies.  In Central Vancouver Island the top two causes of death were due to disease related to the circulatory system, and due to diseases of the arteries/arterioles/capillaries, ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease/ stroke, respectively.

  4. Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being – food insecurity can increase the likelihood of depression and social isolation and is an independent risk factor for depression and suicidal symptoms in adolescents and early adulthood. Again, in Central Vancouver Island, mental health services use was well above average for BC.

  5. Health Care Costs – in addition to poorer health outcomes, recent research in Ontario shows increased health care costs associated with food insecurity. According to PROOF, after adjusting for education and income, total annual health care costs in Ontario were higher for adults living in food insecure households compared to those living in food secure household. Specifically, for marginally food insecure household, health care costs were up 23 percent, for moderately food insecure households, 49 percent and for those household who experienced severe food insecurity the cost of health care went up 121 percent. Food insecurity has also been show to increase the probability that adults will become high-cost health care users.

The report goes on to discuss the monthly cost of food for families of four. The numbers indicate that low-income families would have to spend two-thirds of their income to afford ‘nutritious’ food.

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A Food Paradise Paradox

There is an interesting paradox on Vancouver Island. The island is filled with much beauty. Farmers grow wonderful biodynamic food, not all are organic certified because the hoop jumping and associated costs are too much. Farmers’ markets abound, some seasonal and some year round. Organic food can be delivered to the front door. Some wonderful food is grown year round in shipping containers.

Fresh vegetables, herbs, free range eggs and chickens, jams, berries, apples, plums, pears and honey, just to name a few foods, can be acquired at quaint farm stands at the end of long driveways.

Some chain grocery stores buy and sell locally grown food first and ‘Community Farm’ stores are gaining more traction.

Fifty years ago, 80 percent of the food grown on Vancouver Island was sold on Vancouver Island. Today, that number is estimated to lie between 5 to 10 percent. Local farmers who have been around for a while will tell you about this phenomenon. Perhaps things are coming full circle.

Interestingly, all this abundant food is largely inaccessible or not accessed by people living in food insecure households. Although food continues to be reasonably priced at local farm stands, the farm stands are less than accessible for families and individuals who face financial shortages, serious and chronic health conditions and struggle to put food on the table. They often cannot afford to own a vehicle or the insurance to go with it.

To make matters more confusing, places that claim to carry local food or source locally such as ‘community farm stores’ and farmers’ markets offer nutritious food but at such high prices (between one to two-thirds more than chain grocery stores) making fresh, local food virtually inaccessible even if households ‘budget’ or make a deliberate ‘choice’ to buy local food as much as possible.

People on Vancouver Island, at times, resort to social media to request food donations for their families due to financial shortages as well as on behalf of ailing spouses or family members who want to use real food to attempt to reverse or stabilize their chronic or terminal conditions but cannot afford to do so.

Community development, new policies and advocacy are needed to address both the economic and social conditions of food insecure households.  Since the food system affects us all in some way, we all need to be involved in finding lasting solutions to food insecurity. This is a given.

Needed Change

Access to good food for those who need it (such as those who are attempting to manage chronic conditions) is a complex issue and I certainly do not claim to have the solutions. But I believe that public awareness is a first step.

I wonder if the new way to feed people in our communities is to stop treating food as a commodity subject to market economics where a few big companies are winners and many individuals and communities are the losers. Food is a necessity, not a privilege.

For the People By the People

What if we grew food in the public realm where anyone could access it on a regular basis for free or minimal donation? Perhaps this doesn’t sound good for farmers; however, as the research shows, people living in food insecure households are not their target demographic anyway so my thoughts and ideas neither undermine their ventures nor take away their customers.

What if we made the conscious decision to grow food in the public realm in the form of community gardens or school gardens? Used islands and verges, gleaned food and were creative in how we got that food to the people who needed it most. If we live in extreme climates, we could grow food indoors (in malls, churches, community halls, seniors’ centers, recreation centers, resource centers, women’s shelters, windowsills) or in shipping containers.

The possibilities to provide nutritious food to those who need it are endless. It is a conscious choice that we must make as a society to feed everyone adequately.  Let’s make sustainable food systems and food security our priority issue.

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Resources and Further Reading on Food Insecurity

  1. Priority health equity indicators for British Columbia: Household food insecurity indicator report (August 2016)
  2. PROOF – follow their research here
  3. Vancouver Island Health Authority: Local Health Area Profiles 
  4. Kalina, Laura (2002). Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide 2nd edition.
  5. Building a Common Vision for Sustainable Agriculture – Food Security Summit Rome 2011

~Grow~Share~Thrive~