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Why is our food so much in the news?

April 28, 2013

It seems you can’t pick up a newspaper these days (I still do that, being somewhat attached to the ‘older’ way of doing things) without running into yet another article about food. Why? The American Public Health Association (APHA) has a whole list of reasons why we should be concerned. On its website, the APHA states:

“APHA defines a sustainable food system as one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment.  A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities.” The APHA goes on to state “The four pillars of food security are availability, stability of supply, access and utilization…. The United States has eroded the pillars of food security.”

In this lengthy critique of the American (which of course is also the Canadian) food system, the APHA identified a multitude of problems with the food supply, including:

  • the control that larger producers and retailers have over prices, public policy, information, and determining the choices and risks available to us;
  • chronic obesity and diet-related disease;
  • contamination of the environment and serious human health problems from the extensive use of fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste, and over-use of antibiotics;
  • the contribution of worldwide agriculture and land-use change (estimated to cause about 1/3 of global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions);
  • food safety concerns including genetically modified plants and decreasing biodiversity of plants and animals; and
  • the disproportionately high negative consequences on low-income and minority communities.

In response, communities and individuals are increasingly looking towards healthier, sustainable food practices. The Slow Food, 100 Mile Diet, SPIN (Small Plot INtensive commercial urban farming), organic foods, rooftop gardens, community gardens, shared backyard gardens, city bee-keepers, the fight again GMOs (genetically modified organisms), protection of heritage seeds, and ethical eating are just some of the ways people are gaining back control of their food.

There are so many sources of information and inspiration. Here are a few of mostly local ones in no particular order (if you have favourites, please share them by adding a comment to this blog):

  • Eat like your Grandma is a food blog by a Surrey woman with tons of tasty recipes and useful information about healthy eating;
  • non-GMO Food guide, includes a handy guide to what foods contain GMO;
  • Grow Food Not Lawns has 293,000 followers and lots of links and tips;
  • Food for Democracy Their mandate is to work together to eliminate hunger and create food security for all residents of British Columbia;
  • Farm to School is a group working to bring local, healthy and sustainable foods into British Columbia’s public institutions;
  • BC Food Security Gateway is a web resource for food security practitioners and others in BC who want to make “healthy eating the easy choice” and build food-secure communities;
  • Village Surrey engages individuals, neighbourhoods & organizations to take actions that build sustainable communities & have fun doing it. Food, transportation, housing, energy, social justice, and the arts to name a few;
  • Surrey’s Community Gardens website provides basic information and contact information for the 4 community gardens;
  • Alexandra Neighbourhood House has 30 plots for rent, some plots for children and the Food Bank. It also has a Master Gardener who leads workshops and tours for members of the garden;
  •  White Rock’s Farmer’s Market starts on May 26, 2013 at Miramar Plaza – White Rock Community Centre, 15154 Russell Avenue;
  • Sharing Backyards If you would like to share your back yard or someone else’s, check out this site. Think of it as a matchmaking site for gardeners. So far there are no offers of garden space or gardeners available in the South Surrey area.
  • South Surrey Garden Club I spoke recently to Pat Logi who is a member of this Club. She and some other volunteers are ‘mining’ three backyards in the community to grow food for the South Surrey Food Bank and are looking for more volunteer gardeners and more gardens so they can expand the program. If you would like to get down and dirty for a good cause, contact these folks;
  • GE Free Surrey, whose spokesman is Phil Harrison, is working to promote a GMO-free Surrey;
  • City Farmer is an excellent Vancouver source about urban gardening and its mission is to teach people how to grow food in the city,
    compost their waste and take care of their home landscape in an environmentally responsible way;
  • Waking up for Ava is a website run by Bobbi Blair, a Langley realtor who is very active in promoting change, especially relating to GMO food;
  • West Coast SeedsSaltspring Seeds,  Heritage Harvest Seeds, and BC Seeds are local sources for organic, heritage, heirloom and non-GMO seeds.
  • How to build raised beds These are the Cadillac version.
  • God’s Little Acre is a place I absolutely must visit soon. Beginning in 2011, a Surrey hay-field was transformed into a bustling vegetable operation, run by volunteers and managed by a generous and energetic fellow named Jas Singh for the sole purpose of donating vegetables to the Surrey Food Bank. With great success to date, the stated farm goal is to donate 100,000 lbs of vegetables to charity. The farm is now offering a program where you can buy at the farm gate and support others in need when you purchase a membership. You can also find them on Facebook where you will be highly entertained by Jas’ effervescent writing style.

In case you would like to study the subject beforehand, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Michael Pollen (what a great name for a food writer) has written extensively about food including well-known books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defence of Food.
  • Jennifer Cockrall is a journalist and food writer who explores the food movement and how it is changing our cities in her book Food and the City and shares many urban gardening tips at her Facebook page Food and the City.
  • Seeds Of Deception written by Geoffrey Smith argues powerfully against GM foods.
  • And for something completely different, I just added this book because I heard the author Bill Jones on CBC talking about foraging for mushrooms and then cooking them. The book is The Deerholme Mushroom Book: From Foraging to Feasting and features cooking with many unusual local ingredients including some delicious looking mushrooms.

If you believe in having control of your own food and would like to promote community gardens and yard-sharing in Surrey/ White Rock, please connect with Rick Ketchesin, another passionate advocate for better foods, at the Semiahmoo Food Network. He would love to hear from you. His site also contains links to other information and organizations.

Please come back to visit.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Laureen Ens permalink
    April 29, 2013 10:14 am

    Awesome Blog!!!! I am going to check out many of the sites you posted! I wish we taught courses in schools so that our children could reconnect with gardening, farming, understanding where our food comes from and how it is processed.

    • April 29, 2013 10:55 am

      Thanks so much for your comment. I agree totally. One of the most crucial parts of our lives is ignored in our schools. And with our increasing world population, food and water will be the major issues.

  2. Elizabeth permalink
    April 29, 2013 8:43 am

    Thanks so much Pat for sharing all this very important information about finding healthy food sources close to home while helping others at the same time. I too, can’t wait to check out the “God’s Little Acre” project ASAP!

    • April 29, 2013 10:00 am

      The way we eat is important not just for our own wellbeing but also crucial for our world. So it is great to see people starting to take action. And God’s Little Acre is a fabulous example of one man’s vision making a huge difference for others. Thanks for your feedback!

  3. April 28, 2013 11:11 am

    There are so many benefits to growing your own food – exercise, fresh air, tranquility, a sense of satisfaction and purpose; and it is sooo easy here. Things grow quicker, faster and bigger here than almost anywhere else. three of my favourites (for simplicity, satisfaction and TASTE) are french breakfast radishes, snow peas and rhubarb.

    • April 28, 2013 3:14 pm

      My favourite food of all time is garden peas plucked fresh from the vine! I think it is quite exciting to see the renewed enthusiasm for gardening. Thanks for the feedback.

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