Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

Volunteer Profile: Luke!

September 16, 2014

It’s easy to say nice things about our volunteers. Though each is different, and brings special skills to our program, they are connected by their commitment to Food Hampers, and the fact that they have decided to donate–usually at least once a week–their time and energy to us. Without them, we would be unable to operate as we do. This is worth repeating: without them, we would be unable to operate as we do.

And though it’s easy to say nice things about our volunteers, it can be hard sometimes to capture the depth of their commitment and contribution to our program, and our broader community. This is certainly the case with Luke, who–if we didn’t make him go home!– might stick around till midnight, connecting with patrons and volunteers alike, providing steady support and understated guidance. No matter how busy we are, he energizes those around him, and challenges us to improve our quality of service. Since he started in April 2013 Luke has volunteered 335.5 hours, but that isn’t the half of it!

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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.

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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…)