Archive for August, 2014

Five days on a Hamper Diet: surviving, or thriving?

August 27, 2014

In two other posts, our intrepid summer students discussed “living inside the box,” including planning meals and dealing with the unexpected when your only groceries are from the Emergency Food Program. In this piece, Jessica shifts the discussion out of the abstract, describing her experience living on the actual contents of a food hamper, for five days. (She bought the items, don’t worry!) As her story unfolds, compare it with other more theoretical entries on this blog. Now, here’s Jessica!

My thoughts going into the assignment

In my last blog post I questioned the sustainability of our five day meal plans. In short, was it really enough food to eat well for five days? So, for this assignment I wanted to actually prepare and eat a single person family hamper. This Friday I am going to record what items would be in a one person hamper and purchase them at my local grocery store. I am only going to use the items that would be provided in the hamper with the exception of salt and pepper.

Going into this activity of actually executing a designed meal plan I was quite nervous. I was unsure of what to expect and what I would receive in my hamper that day.

Would I like the food options?

Would there be enough food to last the designated period of time?

I believe these feelings might be similar to customers who use our program, especially for the first time. This is why it seems so important to help program patrons feel comfortable and answer any questions they might have.

Now, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a picky eater but there are some items that I would prefer not to eat. This makes me think of all the children that only want to eat certain food items like chicken nuggets and french fries. How do their parents or guardians handle that situation when all they have available is the food we provide them?

Although extremely healthy for you I’m a lot like most children and do not enjoy eating vegetables, maybe with dip but that’s about it. So designing a personalized meal plan for myself may be trickier than just a general meal plan Sarah and I created earlier where I didn’t incorporate my personal food preferences.

This assignment should be very interesting and a great learning experience for myself to gain a larger understanding of what some of our single person family customers may be going through when designing and preparing meals for themselves. (more…)

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Fried Baloney: a story about food in the north

August 18, 2014

To follow-up on my previous entry about food (in)security in northern Ontario and Labrador, I am sharing some fiction: a short story called fried baloney. (Full disclosure: the author is my dad.)

Enjoy!

Northern Reflections on Food (in)Security

August 14, 2014

What would you do with $908? Take a cruise to Alaska? Buy a nice new bicycle? A TV? 900 boxes of Kraft Dinner? Bury it under a large rock?

Maybe you’d go grocery shopping?

There is no real grocery store in Gull Bay First Nation, an Anishinaabe community about 200 kms north of Thunder Bay. There is no good public transit connection between Gull Bay and Thunder Bay, meaning you drive. If you can’t afford a car or gas, you have to take a taxi. And you had better fill that cab to the gills, because it’s $908 round trip.

That’s $908 plus the cost of groceries.

A resident of Gull Bay shared this anecdote with Mike Balkwill, provincial organizer for the Put Food in the Budget campaign, on his recent tour of communities in northwestern Ontario. Mike has spent most of his life working with people living on a low-income in southern Ontario (specifically the GTA), and was invited to travel north this summer by Kathy Campbell, Executive Director of an emergency women’s shelter in Red Lake.

Kathy suggested a learning tour, of sorts, because poverty in the north is not like poverty in southern Ontario.

(more…)

Living Inside The Box: Menu Planning For Food Hampers, vol. 2

August 11, 2014

Here is the second installment of Sarah and Jessica’s work thinking through the options and dilemmas of a food hamper for a single person. Two weeks after their first hamper, they packed a second one with very different results. The theme of their menu this time around is food monotony–a topic discussed elsewhere on this blog.7031c072416a8ed12eb10eea4bb9_Content

Sarah: Once again, Jessica and I were required to pack a single person’s hamper and create a meal plan to sustain us for—fingers crossed—five days. We received a lot of food in the first hamper, and so it didn’t seem like this would be a difficult task. However, once the hamper was packed and presented to us, there was a major contrast between our previous hamper and the one that was now before us.

This hamper lacked basic categories of food. Unlike our past hamper, there was an absence of 1L milk, a squash, onions, beans, cottage cheese and vegetables. In addition, there was much less fruit, yogurt and bread. On the other hand, we did gain eggs in our hamper! But this hardly seems like an equal trade off. The amount of food received in the hamper clearly indicates the amount of donations received that week. Minimal donations plus ongoing community need left us with a rather small hamper. (more…)

Mo’ KD, Mo’ Problems

August 7, 2014

Our senses have a wonderful and wicked ability to take us different places. I can’t smell a certain kind of sugary black tea without remembering the years my family lived in Labrador. Certain bands remind me of an ex-girlfriend. For each of us these associations are different.

Food creates associations in powerful and sometimes surprising ways. I think that most privileged people like myself can classify their food associations as either positive or historical: special meals, backpacking abroad, or maybe a particularly unsatisfying meal from our past. For example: “shipwreck,” the leftovers-on-leftovers stew my dad used to make, which I haven’t been subjected to in probably close to twenty years. And this is an important point: privilege means choice; and it means that a lack of choice is self-imposed or in our rear-view mirror.

I spent a couple weeks canoeing last summer, some of it in Temagami, just before I started working at the Emergency Food Hamper Program. At the time I was unemployed. In other words, going on an extended canoe trip was not the smartest idea, finance-wise, but my friend and I committed to doing the trip as cheap as possible, right down to the food we packed into our waterproof barrels.

And so, because we could get the ingredients basically for free, we spent the week eating a strange mix of quinoa, lentils, sesame oil and soy sauce–except for a couple of cans of herring, which I recall thinking at the time was the most delicious food in the all time history of food.

Fortunately, I think, I don’t often eat that peculiar mix of sesame and soy sauce. On the one hand, it reminds me of a beautiful trip in Northern Ontario. But on the other hand, I am taken back to what it felt like to have no choice–by choice, mind you–and my stomach turns and constricts at the thought of eating more of it. You have to eat on a canoe trip if you want to keep canoeing, even if it’s what you ate for lunch, and for breakfast, and for supper, and for lunch, and for breakfast. It’s sesame and soy sauce all the way down! (more…)

Growing up Organically

August 1, 2014

My family moved onto a small-ish farm in Southern Ontario the year I entered kindergarten. We are now certified Organic, and mainly produce spelt and grass-fed beef. At different points we’ve had pigs, chickens, sheep, and a small army of barn cats.

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Some of the animals in my family

On the one hand, I have always been proud of what we do. We don’t look or farm like our neighbours. We have more weeds–thistles as big as me, sometimes. Instead of pesticides and fertilizer, we practice forms of crop rotation I’ve always believed to be kinder to the earth. Our practices are more labour intensive, and a bit less dependent on fossil fuels. I know that some of our neighbours don’t even consider what we do ‘real farming.’ Usually, however, comments like that only reinforce that we are doing something different, and that we–and farms like ours–represent something more sustainable and just, a method I’ll call agro-ecological farming.

The face of grass fed beef.

The face of grass fed beef

On the other hand, aren’t these ‘real farmers’ making an important point? Couldn’t we be farming more efficiently? Shouldn’t we? It’s easy to pick on these neighbours: they are farming more conventionally and industrially, and thus responsible for so many environmental evils. Right? Unfortunately, it’s often hard to find room for nuance on my moral high-horse. In reality, my family makes a sort-of living–my parents both work off farm–by selling a niche product to upper-middle class consumers. From this perspective, our farm looks less like a real alternative to our factory farming neighbours, and more, perhaps, like an irresponsible use of resources in a hungry world. (more…)