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Inspirational Tuesday ~ Be A Part of the Growing-Your-Own Solution

“Fruit is nature’s purest and most immediate enjoyment, requiring nothing more than a rinse or simple rub on your shirt to clean it. From the fruit-eater’s point of view, it’s effortless pleasure. It demands non of the slicing, chopping soaking, or parboiling needed by vegetables.  Even on a chemical level, its energy is more accessible, more mobile, with no complex starches to break down.” (MK Wyle in Greenhorns: The next generation of American Farmers, pg 97)

Improved Well-Being Linked to Growing Your Own

This will come as a surprise to no one, connecting to nature creates improved well-being. Research has repeatedly shown that sensory gardens and the practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing practiced in Japan), for example, have direct positive effects on emotional, cognitive and physiological well-being.  So when I came upon a recent article from the Washington Post extolling the wonders and scientifically-proven benefits of involving children in gardening: building microbiomes, better attention skills and patience, trying the fruit and vegetables they helped to nurture along and growing happier and healthier kids overall, I wanted to share it and add to it. In my opinion, not only is growing food good for the individual, it is good for community and humanity; developing understanding, empathy, and compassion are direct side-effects of growing and sharing food.

It is encouraging to see that growing food as a family is becoming more common, again. As we pat ourselves on the back for reaching this get-back-in-the-garden milestone, it is important to remember that most of the world (other than North America) still grows its own food, as well as the food to satiate the ever expanding North American appetite. Families used to grow their own food in North America and Europe in the not-so-distant past. It’s what they needed to do in order to have something to eat. It’s important to not forget that growing our own food is not a new lofty ideal, it is imperative for health, food security and environmental regeneration.

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In a recent book I read, Greenhorns: The next generation of American farmers, 50 new generation farmers discussed their modern day challenges with feeding the North American inflated expectations that fly directly in the face of growing food naturally and in sync with nature.

“In our supermarket culture, fruit has become so visual, so linked to beauty and perfection, that people ignore the fundamental paradox of modern fruit production – high levels of chemical are the cost of unscathed, ‘perfect-looking’ fruit.  In pursuit of this ideal, we’ve lost a sense of what good fruit might actually look like, cosmetic imperfections and all.” (pg 98)

Greenhorns: The Next Generation of American Farmers <br>50 Dispatches from the New Farmers' Movement by Zoe Ida Bradbury (2012-05-08)

Greenhorns: The Next Generation of American Farmers <br>50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement by Zoe Ida Bradbury (2012-05-08)

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Can’t Grow? Help instead!

I am a huge advocate of growing our own food, regenerating soil, getting the whole family involved in the process, sharing the food we grow with neighbours and others who face food insecurity.

I am a big believer in ‘real food is medicine‘  – preventative medicine. The more we are in tune with Nature and eat what Nature provides, the more we may improve our body’s functioning, mental clarity and overall well-being.

If you are not able to grow your own, support those who can and who are growing their own.

  • Contribute water to the community garden,
  • Buy seeds for those who share their garden bounty with you,
  • Share saved seeds,
  • Buy a bag of organic worm castings to help your neighbour’s garden grow,
  • Volunteer to glean your neighbour’s apple, cherry or pear trees.
  • Learn about regenerative gardening and growing practices (e.g, permaculture) See the short video below…education is power.

Teach your whole family to be a part of the locally sourced, regenerative gardening/farming and organic food solution in what ever way, big or small. Teach your children about the importance of healthy soil, rampant food insecurity and how to create meaningful change in this world.

~Grow~Share~Thrive~

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Inspirational Monday ~ Mini-Farm Your Front Lawn

I woke up this morning to a great post written and illustrated by two women, Jennifer Luxton and Erin Sagen, titled Comic: Why You Should Turn Your Yard Into a Mini-Farm. Take the time to read it and get inspired to do things differently.

They wrote this article for YES! Magazine to incite people to ditch the 40.3 million acres of front lawns in the Continental US and to grow food, herbs and ‘weeds’ that are beneficial for humans, animals and the planet. I couldn’t agree more. Re-creating the vast suburban luscious greens lawns into mini-farms is the future of locally sourced, nutrient dense food as well as a way to create food security.

To get you started, here are some ideas for growing delicious edibles that are also wonderful for honeybees, bumblebees and other beneficial insects.

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Herbs and Edible Flowers to Grow from YOUGROWGIRL!

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~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~

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Putting Good Food on the Table ~ Policy Change is Necessary

As a citizen of the planet and a urban gardener, I want to talk about a major public health, social justice and human rights issue that lies at the core of a healthy population: Food Security. It is knowing you have enough money to buy nutritious food on a consistent basis.

The Food Insecurity Policy Research Team also known as PROOF based out of the University of Toronto and the British Columbia Provincial Health Services Authority worked together to create a document titled, “Priority health equity indicators for British Columbia: Household Food Insecurity Indicator Report“, published in August 2016.

Information gathered about food security in BC was based on the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) completed in four survey cycles from 2005 to 2011. Limited access to nutrient-dense food is one of 52 ‘health equity’ indicators the BC Provincial Health Services Authority identified.

They concluded that policy does have significant and measurable impact on the overall health of a population and that current policies (which fund charitable organizations but do not directly address food insecurity or the food system) must somehow change.

Is the data provided by PROOF compelling and meaningful enough to the public and those in government to create policy changes? Death by famine lacks drama and so does the topic of having enough healthy food to eat as a way to prevent some chronic illnesses.  

There are currently no direct policies to address food insecurity or hunger in Canada even though the world has been talking about food security as a basic human right for almost 70 years:

  • In 1948, food security was addressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights where Food Security & Safety were declared as a human right
  • Again in 1966 at the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Again in 1989 in the Convention of Rights of the Child
  • In 1996 at the World Food Summit in Rome, Rome Declaration on Food Security

In 1998, Canada rolled out its action plan for food security:

Canada’s Action Plan for Food Security is Canada’s response to the World Food Summit (WFS) commitment made by the international community to reduce by half the number of undernourished people no later than the year 2015. … The WFS Plan of Action contains seven commitments, which also form the backbone of this document.

In 2016, household food insecurity continued to rise and reliance on charitable food organizations increased (although such statistics grossly underestimate the extent of the problem because as PROOF’s research has shown only 1 in 4 people who are food insecure actually access food banks). Food banks and other such organizations understand they are bridging the gap that exists between people’s needs and the lack of advocacy and cohesive policy solutions.

Google food insecurity in Canada and you will not find blog posts, articles or social commentaries on this pressing issue, although food insecurity affects everyone in some way. Not many people are getting hot under the collar about the cost to the healthcare system due to increasing need for chronic disease treatment.

Talk to your neighbours, friends, or strangers. Your conversations may reveal what PROOF discovered through regression analysis. Many Canadians who are bringing in household income are struggling to put balanced meals on the table because they have debt, children, high mortgage payments, and high utility bills. Some are caring for elderly parents while others are starting over again later in life. These re-starters are struggling to bridge the gap between now and the age when they can begin to draw a guaranteed basic income. Some are university educated professionals, others are self-employed and some are people on parental leave who don’t get “top ups” to their Employment Insurance benefits.

What are the latest numbers?

One in 6 Canadian children are estimated to be food insecure. In the northern territories of Canada, 2 in 3 children are food insecure (60%). 12.4% of households in Canada don’t have consistent access to nutritious food through regular means. Please note that most data gathered by the Canadian Community Health Survey is about teens and adults.

In the US, 1 in 4 children are estimated to be food insecure. Of the 42.2 million people who are food insecure, 13.1 million are children. 13% of households don’t have consistent access to nutritious food.

For comparison, this graph is reprinted from the original article by Anna Taylor and Rachel Loopstra written for The Food Foundation titled “Too Poor To Eat: Food Insecurity in the UK”.  An estimated 8.4 million people experience household insecurity on a daily basis in the UK.food-insecurity-data-fixedThe European countries with the lowest levels of food insecurity were Sweden (3.1%), Germany (4.3%) and Denmark (4.9%). The highest rates were measured in Lithuania (19.6%), Romania (18.9%) and Greece (17.2%).

PROOF gathered important information and data to guide discussions to address food insecurity. The policies of countries with the lowest food insecurity rates can serve as examples and guides for our policy makers.  When debating the latest changes to the Canadian Food Guide, several politicians turned to Brazil’s latest Food Guidelines as an example of progressive change Canada should adopt.

It seems that we are still far from discussing policy options regarding food security. But there is no time like now to increase public awareness, help people understand the significant implications of this public health issue and to demand specific policies to reverse rising food insecurity trends.

What policy changes?

My sense is that improving fair and equitable access to food is a complex issue that needs a complete shift in our current way of thinking and the collaboration of many.

Here are some suggestions that I’ve been reading and thinking about:

  1. Policies must invest in health, specifically, disease prevention (e.g., decide on a healthy, sustainable diet)
  2. Policy change that champions sustainable, locally produced food, including increased incentives for local farmers and for markets where fresh, healthful food is available, may increase community food security.
  3. Policies that support increased financial support/benefits to vulnerable populations may improve access to healthful food.
  4. Policies that support community gardening, home gardening, and urban farming are other ways in which sustainably grown, local food can be used to improve community food security and to increase participant intake of fruits and vegetables.
  5.  Create incentives to allow citizens to buy seeds and edible plants, further increasing the potential for urban agriculture and home gardening to help alleviate food insecurity.

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Inspirational Tuesday ~ Talking on the Radio About My Experience with Food Insecurity

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Listen to the show…click here

I am so grateful to Dr. Theresa Nicassio for having me back on her Radio Show to talk about a subject that I am so passionate about: Food Insecuritynot knowing where your next meal will come from due to financial constraint.

Last time I was on the show, I talked about the various Urban Garden projects happening around the world.  People are growing produce in the public realm as a way to tackle food insecurity in their neighborhoods and communities. These gardeners are engaged in grassroots work to compensate for the lack of direct social policies.

They are declaring their independence from the large-scale industrial agriculture system and the negative consequences of monoculture (single crop) farming on our health and the health of our environment through soil depletion, water pollution, generation of excess carbon in the atmosphere and the use of inorganic, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

Poverty is not the same as Food Insecurity. Higher unemployment, lower household assets and certain demographics (being a minority, renting vs. owning a residence) are associated with decreased access to adequate, nutritious food.

According to a University of Toronto Multidisciplinary Research Team (PROOF) for Food Insecurity Policy Research, food insecurity can be marginal where people are running out of money for food before their next paycheck, moderate, where families are having trouble putting a balanced meal on the table, or reducing portions and/or foods they eat to make ends meet, or severe, where people go without food for days.

All of these states of household food insecurity have significant impact on physical, mental and social health because people may be prevented from eating enough of the right kinds of nutrients to support and maintain good health, according to the PROOF researchers.

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This was the first time that I shared my personal experience of food insecurity with a wider audience. It was truly liberating to tell my story and give examples of how it played a role in my life. As I spoke with Theresa, I had a profound moment of realization, clarity and relief.

Being a psychologist, Theresa asked me how it made me feel to live in poverty as a new immigrant at nine years of age. The only emotion that surfaced was ‘shame’. Because I had never shared my story with anyone other than my husband, I never gave any thought to how I felt about it all and found it difficult to answer.

After reflecting on where the word ‘shame’ came from, I realized that early on, I drank the insidious cool-aid of Thomas Malthus and other such economic philosophers and social commentators whose theories continue to be debated and influential in modern society hundreds of years later despite their anachronous assumptions about human nature.

This excerpt from an article in Economist View, “Blaming the Poor for their Poverty” accurately sums up (without being reductionist) where my ‘shame’ about being economically poor came from:

“Ultimately, in Malthus’ view, the difference between the rich and the poor comes down to a difference in moral character. It is an attempt to convince us that poverty is inevitable, that it is the consequences of poor choices and the moral inferiority of the poor, and that there is little that can be done about it.

There is a long history of blaming the poor for being poor and downplaying other possible sources of inequality arising from differences in power, social position, institutional structure, and so on, followed by an argument that attempts to help the poor only serve to increase the incentive for immoral behavior.” Economist View 2006

People tried to convince me that poverty was inevitable (particularly as an immigrant) ever since my family and I came to Canada over 30 years ago. These were not malevolent strangers, these were people in my own extended family who themselves were immigrants. Interestingly, these relatives who had come to Canada with nothing managed to improve their financial circumstances through hard work but apparently did not hold the same hope for others or were perhaps using poor-shaming as a motivational technique. A very close version of Malthus’ theory became a part of my internal audio loop.

I felt there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I was somehow morally inferior and our financial circumstances/low socioeconomic status, early on, were an outward manifestation, the ‘scarlet letter’, of moral baseness.

It has taken me 30 years to figure out why I felt less than and not ‘a part of’. After the radio show appearance, it dawned on me that I was playing this self-shaming loop in my head for all this time.

Why do I advocate and feel so passionate about alleviating food insecurity? Because upholding human rights and dignity of everyone on this planet through compassion, love, fairness, awareness and understanding is the only way forward.

Grow ~ Share ~ Thrive

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Inspirational Tuesday ~ Food Security in the ‘Invisible North’

Food security is an issue near and dear to my heart.  Although I live in Canada, not all our citizens have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life at all times.

Food security is not just a poverty issue. It is a much larger issue that involves the whole food system and affects everyone in some way.

As consumers, do we think about what is in the food we buy? How it is grown? Who is involved in growing it?  Where the food comes from? Who can afford it?

Can we support local, small-scale farmers who produce food in sustainable ways?

Can local, small-scale farming feed a projected world population of 9 Billion people by 2050?

It is a myth that world hunger is due to scarcity of food. We need to rethink how we are going to feed the human race.

The existence of food security insecurity in a wealthy country like Canada is not accidental. It is the result of policies created by different government sectors, including social, agricultural, economic, and health. For example, in the social policy sector, food insecurity is created by both reduction in social assistance rates and restrictive eligibility criteria.” ~ Laura Kalina, R.D.N. M. Ad. Ed. Building Food Security in Canada: From Hunger to Sustainable Food Systems: A Community Guide (2002)

I just finished reading Invisible North: The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve by Alexandra Shimo, published in 2016

This book is about the ‘fourth world’ conditions that exist on many Aboriginal reserves in the Canadian North. Alexandra is a journalist and former MacLean’s Magazine editor who visited the Kashechewan Reserve in Northern Ontario to report on a water crisis. She walked away a changed woman and with a real story to tell. As Alexandra Shimo lays out in her book, food security and racialized poverty are major issues.

She demonstrates how high level political and economic policies play out in the daily lives of aboriginal people. Alexandra’s book gives a hard and honest look at the disparity that exists and the barriers (historic, political, social, economic) faced by aboriginal people almost every step of the way.

Despite Canada’s 1998 Action Plan for Food Security, equal access to nutrient dense food is far from reality.

This book is a fascinating and sobering read from start to finish. Alexandra skillfully wove her personal experience and journalistic hunt for the truth about e.coli water contamination with the harsh reality of daily life, politics, food security and the arm’s length control by Ottawa.

The following is an excerpt from Invisible North: The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve about Alexandra’s first grocery shopping experience in Kash.

“At the fruit and veggie section, a bunch of grapes (seventy-nine grams or about one hundred grapes) costs $13.42, a bag of apples (three pounds of golden delicious) is $15.29, and a single head of red cabbage is $12.89. The prices don’t reflect the quality: the veggies are dry or browning, and some of the meat is pat its sell-by date…Mostly I’ve bought mac and cheese, pasta , and tuna fish…I stand nervously at the checkout and nervously watch the numbers spiral upward. My first grocery bill comes to $342.57…Fuck, I think. How do people survive on the $383 monthly welfare?” ~ Alexandra Shimo

Invisible North: The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve

Invisible North: The Search for Answers on a Troubled Reserve by Alexandra Shimo

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Inspirational Tuesday ~ The Very Invisible Food System

“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.

Do we take food for granted?

Cheap food, cheap energy, cheap water. Where does it come from? Who grew it? How was it grown or raised? Who is eating it? Does it matter?

Food security refers to the availability of food and one’s access to it.

Food Security – it’s in Your Hands is a poignant documentary about the current food system and where to go from here. I encourage you to pick it up at the library on the way home.

There isn’t much public or community discussion about food security in North America. Simply searching ‘food security’ returns a results page filled with government statistics and definitions; however, there is no in-depth discussion or notable distress over the issue of equal access to a balanced diet. Whether we realize it or not, we are all a part of the food system. Information gives us the power to see the issues around us and to create needed change.

This documentary from 2012 is well worth watching and sharing with your friends, young people and children.

The history of food, food security, the rise of inorganic, synthesized fertilizer use and overuse are presented and discussed by farmers, soils scientists and newby farmers in a very engaging way.

The business and economic side of farming is also discussed. Currently, 4% of the Canadian population is engaged in producing our food. Can farming be a viable occupation for young people and families today?

This documentary was mostly filmed on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, just 15 minutes down the road from where we live.

~To Grow A Garden is to Believe in the Future~

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Talking Urban Gardening on the Radio

The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything…or nothing. ~Lady Astor

I am a lover of all things sustainable, local and organic. I am a nature enthusiast, gardener, photographer, writer and hiker. My passion lies in connecting or re-connecting people with the power of nature and the earth.

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On The Radio

I was invited to do a short spot on the Dr. Theresa Nicassio Radio Show on Healthy Life Radio Network – All Positive Talk Radio on January 2, 2017. Theresa asked me to come on to talk about the various urban gardening projects that are going on around the world – some of which I have been reading and writing about.

There are so many people growing their own food and their stories need to be shared. These urban gardeners are revolutionaries in their own right and are certainly an inspiration.

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The Urban Agriculture Projects I spoke about on Theresa’s show have several things in common:

  1. they strive to reduce the environmental impact food production
  2. they promote and encourage self-reliance or some degree of independence from the current agriculture system (whose practices are destructive to the planet)
  3. they strive to reconnect communities and bring people together, connect people to nature and teach about stewardship – get people outside and active
  4. most importantly, by growing food in the public realm, they provide food for anybody who wants access to fresh, nutrient-dense food that has been grown without any chemicals

Growing food in the public realm seems, in this day and age, a subversive and revolutionary act. Millions of people in North America are doing it.

Simple food choices we make on a daily basis are revolutionary.

Listen to the Show from January 2, 2017 here.

(My bit comes in at the 30 minute mark)

 

The featured guest on January 2, 2017 was Eyoalha Baker. She spoke so eloquently on the show about the impact of sharing joy through her amazing murals.

JumpForJoyPhotoProject.com

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~Go on. Be Amazing~

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Creating The Future And Justice for All…

 

Rather than fighting the world we reject, let’s use our knowledge, skills, insights, principle and techniques to create the world we do want. ~Bill Mollison

 

Hello and Happy New Year to Everyone.

I want to start the New Year with gratitude. Last year was my first year blogging and I am very thankful to the 9K readers who visited my websites in 2016. Thank you to all those who posted comments, all of which have been wonderfully supportive and uplifting. Your kind words helped keep my focus and find my voice.

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There are so many amazing people out there working to change the status quo of the food system – those who choose to eat a plant-based diet, ethically raised meat, grow their own, and those who see that food security and food safety are the truly pressing and relevant environmental and social justice issues of our time.

Fresh, nutritious foods should be available to everyone, not just those who can afford it. Growing food in the public realm is no longer a matter of choice, but necessity.

This year, my focus is on the environmental and social justice issues that exist around the ‘basics’ – food. I invite you to join me and others (whom I will be talking about and featuring throughout the year) on this journey. It is my true belief and intention that together we can make a significant, positive difference to the food system and thereby improve our health, our environment and our future one person at a time.

Not long ago I heard someone say “True revolution will happen on the plate“. Let’s make it happen together.

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If you are looking for inspiration and further understanding of the current food system, watch “Fresh: New Thinking About What We’re Eating“. It is a docudrama by Sofia Joanes from 2009. This film is more relevant and pressing than ever before. It sheds light on the current food production systems and the alternatives from the point of view of farmers. It was the best 72 minutes of screen time I’ve spent in a long time. One farmer’s words resonated with me: “[We] fear one thing: inconvenience.”

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I am excited to be in the process of planning and gathering supplies for our Urban Front Yard Farm Project. My goal is to grow enough food to feed our family of 5 and our neighbours for a 22 week growing season and beyond all on a 9 by 40 feet front yard space. I want to experiment with a few different media (haybales vs. organic soil/compost vs. hugelkultur). Read more about last year’s growing exploits here. As the quote at the very top states, rather than fighting against something, I want to create a world that I want – one that places the culture of health, community and a vibrant ecological system above anything else.

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I spent some time creating a “vision board”for 2017. It is a compilation of things I wish to focus on this year. It is posted on my refrigerator as a reminder of what I wish to move toward.

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January and February are getting to be busy. We’re going to the Gluten Free Expo in Vancouver Jan 14-15, 2017, meeting with Dr. Theresa Nicassio and checking out ZEND Conscious Lounge where 100 per cent of profits go to charity. I will also be doing some radio appearances on the Dr. Theresa Nicassio Radio Show on HealtyLife.com and hopefully doing another interview with Theresa. She has had a wonderfully busy year since we last spoke.

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~Have a Beautiful Week~

 

 

 

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Creating Food Security in Your Community – Is it on Your Vision Board for 2017?

“Food is a profoundly social urge. Food is almost always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village comes together. Food is also an occasion for sharing, for distributing and giving, for the expression of altruism, whether from parents to children, children to in-laws, or anyone to visitors and strangers. Food is the most important thing a mother gives a child; it is the substance of her own body, and in most parts of the world mother’s milk is still the only safe food for infants. Thus food becomes not just a symbol of, but the reality of, love and security.”  ~ Robin Fox from Food and Eating: An Anthropological Perspective

Why write about food security (having access to enough and good quality food) at this time of year?  As many people set about creating goals, vision boards or targets for the up coming year, it is my hope that in addition to focusing on the refinement and re-genesis of ‘me’, we also include ‘me’ as part of a larger community and incorporate goals that support and enhance that community.

One of my goals for 2017 is to grow and/or glean enough fresh fruits and vegetables to provide for my family and for those in our community who do not have regular access to fresh produce.

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Why would people living in countries where food is ‘cheap’, available in mass quantities, and sold in convenient supermarkets, super-centers or wholesale club stores, often disposed of before expiring, want to grow their own food or glean food from a neighbor’s yard?

The reasons are varied: food contamination (pesticides/herbicides), food modification, food insecurity, increasing prices of produce that is shipped into local stores due to drought conditions in food producing regions such as California, and the increasing cost of shipping.  Carolyn Herriot, author and local farmer in Central Vancouver Island, defined food security as ‘making sure your neighbour is fed’. Her words resonate deeply with me.

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Food security and safety elicit a particularly strong reaction in me. I grew up in eastern Europe in the 1980’s. My grandparents and parents grew their own food due to food shortages. We often reminisce (still 30 years later) about ‘standing in line for toilet paper’. The reality was, people in communist countries ‘stood in line’ for everything.

We immigrated to Canada in late 1986. In those early days, we used the food bank several times when income was tight. We picked up day old food at a local grocery store every Saturday on behalf of a local church. The food was distributed to those in need and we were lucky to get a share.

Although it has been many years since I’ve had to visit a food bank, I am compelled to contribute in some way and to pay-it-forward.

According to Canada Without Poverty:

  • 1 in 7 people in Canada are currently living in poverty.
  • These people are our neighbors, persons with disabilities, single parents, Aboriginal persons, the elderly and racialized communities.
  • 540,000 children across Canada live in conditions of poverty.
  • 20.4% of children in British Columbia live in poverty.
  • 1 in 8 Canadian households struggle to put food on the table (2.4 million households and almost 1 million children).

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The United Nations Economic and Social Council noted the following in Article 11 (May 1999) on the Right to Adequate food:

“The Committee observes that while the problems of hunger and malnutrition are often particularly acute in developing countries, malnutrition, under-nutrition and other problems which relate to the right to adequate food and the right to freedom from hunger also exist in some of the most economically developed countries. Fundamentally, the roots of the problem of hunger and malnutrition are not lack of food but lack of access to available food…”(1)

Could food insecurity and limited access to high nutritional quality foods be alleviated (at least in part) by growing and/or gleaning fruits and vegetables instead of green lawns and colorful flower beds?

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Would growing your own – on a balcony in a bag of dirt or in a raised garden bed – provide a passive example to neighbors and strangers alike of how easy it can be? Check out this 4 minute video and get inspired.

Make some of your New Year’s goals about how you can be a part of the food security solution in your community. Here are some resources to get you started:

  1. Start your own Food Is Free Project: (a) Collective Evolution: How to start a food is free project & (b) Food Is Free: How to Start a Food is Free Project Guide
  2. A Farm in a Shipping Container: Wouldn’t it be amazing if whole neighborhoods and/or school districts got together (and perhaps acquired government funding) to purchase Green Leafy Machines to grow their own food with a low carbon footprint all year round? Since publishing my article about Tamara Knott’s Shipping Container Farm, I have had many inquiries about it. It is inspiring to see how many people are re-thinking food and consciously choosing to have a direct hand in what they eat and how food is distributed.
  3. Gleaning: Let’s manage what we grow and be responsible with the food that is already available. Here are some organizations that can pick fruit and distribute it to those in need. Perhaps you can volunteer or start your own such organization in your area.
    1. Farm to Cafeteria (Canada) – Farm to Cafeteria Canada (F2CC) is a pan-Canadian organization whose vision is  “vibrant and sustainable regional food systems that support the health of people place and planet.” F2CC works with  partners across Canada to educate, build capacity, strengthen partnerships, and influence policy to bring local, healthy, and sustainable foods into all public institutions.
    2. Zero Waste Canada – The Fruit Tree Project rescues fruit from backyards. They have volunteer organizations all over Canada, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal as well as in smaller communities.
    3. Cowichan Valley FruitSave Program (Central Vancouver Island, Canada) – the FruitSave Project is a local gleaning program that organizes volunteers to harvest backyard fruit that would otherwise go to waste.  This naturally grown fruit is shared between the homeowner, the pickers, and the Valley’s many emergency food providers.
    4. FarmFolk CityFolk (all over British Columbia, Canada) – Fruit Tree projects enlist a great group of volunteers who will assist with the picking of fruit in your backyard, fruit tree care, and preserving workshops. Fruit is distributed among homeowners, volunteers, community groups and food banks.
    5. Gleaning Abundance (Kamloops, BC, Canada) – Home owners with too much fruit on their trees or vegetables in their garden contact us to share their abundance.
    6. Food Secure Canada – check out their Relocalization Network Project proposal so you can start your own
    7. Village Harvest (US) – This website provides a list (in progress) of groups which glean, harvest, collect, rescue, or recover fruit or produce for charitable purposes in the US.
    8. FeedBack (UK & Europe) – The Gleaning Network coordinates volunteers, farmers and food redistribution charities to salvage the thousands of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables that are wasted on farms every year across the UK and Europe, and direct this fresh, nutritious food to people in need.

 

Resources

(1)  Substantive issues arising in the implantation of the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights committed on economic, social and cultural rights; Twentieth session Geneva, 26 April-14 May 1999, Agenda item 7 pp. 2-3)