September has been a busy month and one of the highlights? Having watermelons in our CSA share for 2 weeks. Although our CSA farm doesn’t produce any fruit (yet), for the past 2 years, they have partnered with a local melon producer so that us CSA members can enjoy awesome watermelon as part of our shares. The melon was so deliciously tempting that it only made it into 1 of 2 photos. We have extras of one veggie each week because I trade our herb every single time. We grow enough in our home garden and have no use for extra herbs.
From listening to numerous debates and discussions on living wages and from creating budgets based on various incomes, I can absolutely appreciate how difficult it would be to survive on a minimum wage income. Especially as a parent with dependents.
Typically, it isn’t just that you make minimum wage. You may not get enough hours to meet full-time requirements with one employer, so you need to work a few jobs to make enough money. You probably work more hours than you would if you had one full-time job. You may not be able to spend much time at home because you’re working. You have difficulty making ends meet because there are so many costs in life: shelter, clothing, food, your kids’ needs, aging parent’s needs, internet, phone, transportation. Life is complicated and complex, and having to struggle and constantly worry about meeting absolutely basic needs just makes everything more challenging.
As part of Food Secure Canada’s EatThinkVote campaign (Canada’s next federal election is October 19, 2015), they are pushing for a Canada with zero hunger. Their policy proposal to achieve this is to establish a national basic income. In short, this means that anyone falling below a certain income (designated poverty line) would be topped up to the basic income. The idea is that this would positively impact the mental and physical health of those who would have otherwise fallen below the poverty line.
I had never heard of the concept of the basic income floor before and was even more surprised to read that an experiment with a guaranteed annual income had been done from 1974-1979 in Dauphin, Manitoba. That’s almost 40 years ago! It was called MINCOME (a smash-up of “minimum income”). Everyone in the small town was eligible to participate in the experiment; benefits were dependent on factors such as family size and whether there were other income sources. Unfortunately, there was no report produced at the end of this field experiment. There have been subsequent analyses by universities and others that try to assess the costs and benefits of this experiment. The greatest benefit seemed to be for those who were low income but did not qualify for other established social security schemes and for those who were self-employed with no guarantee of income from year to year (agricultural base).
I think this is such an interesting concept but there would be lots of details to be worked out, like what exactly would the designated poverty line be? Would it be indexed to the cost of living in different areas of the country? What would be the most effective way of rolling out this type of policy?
Looking back on my life so far, I can point to a few pivotal moments that have really affected how my life has turned out. As the Canadian federal election really gets going (towards an election date of October 19, 2015), I am reminded of the importance of food security…and the year I started to really explore the concept of food security is one of those pivotal moments of my life.
Rewind to that pivotal week
I became involved with a community service learning program at my university, where we learned about and discussed issues that impact a specific community while volunteering with an organization within that community. During Reading Week in my second year of university, 30 students came together from across many academic disciplines to volunteer in spaces like an elementary school, a women’s transition house and an HIV/AIDS health program. Each morning, all of the university students would come together and have an incredibly thought-provoking discussion led by a community leader or faculty member. I don’t think remember specifically discussing food security during those 4 days together, but we talked a lot about issues that impact marginalized communities.
My participation in that 4.5 day project has really shaped my view of the world. It was the first time that I really remember being pushed to think in a different way. I almost feel like most of the learning that I had ever done in school up until that point was very passive; you go to school, you learn about set topics, you hang out with friends (usually people somewhat like you socioeconomically speaking) and you regurgitate content (tests, exams, projects, assignments). That week, I was exposed to a number of issues that I had known about in a cursory manner but had never discussed in such depth:
- what does it mean to be marginalized (I actually don’t know if I even knew that word existed prior to)?
- what do marginalized women face and how can a community support them?
- what special issues do children who grow up in marginalized communities face?
Going through that project, I don’t think I even understood how much of an impact it would have on me. Only now, looking back, can I see the trajectory that it pushed me on. Anyways, my continued involvement with the community service learning program over a few years really educated me on appreciating each person’s life experience. You never really know what another person is going through or has gone through and how that impacts their interaction with the world. Which brings me to food security.
Fast forward to voting for food security
Food security is having access to a sufficient amount of safe and nutritious food.
A basic element that every child needs to survive is food. Without food, they cannot meet their potential. Imagine having a growling stomach all day long, every day. Your stomach could be growling for many reasons; maybe your caregivers can’t afford much food or maybe you don’t have regular access to nutritious food. I bet you’d feel tired and your main focus would be on finding something to eat. Imagine going to school in that state, every single day. Being told to sit in your seat, finish your assignment, write that test, run a few laps, don’t fall asleep…all while your stomach growls. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Every child should have access to enough safe and nutritious food so that they can focus on learning and growing and playing instead of on their empty stomach.
Nobody can deny that children are the future. Just biologically, this is a fact. Children will grow to be the adults of tomorrow and the adults of today will eventually die. Investing in the children of today is incredibly important. And it is truly the biggest and best investment that we can make. How these children feel, think, perceive the world will impact what our world will look like in 10, 20, 40 years. This is why we need a universal healthy national school food program for children.
How would a national school food program impact our today and our future?
Show that we, as Canada, truly value and recognize the important that food plays in our communities and in our future as a country. Encourage the adoption of a food policy that gives kids healthy and nutritious food at school. A national school food program would shape our future in a few ways:
- immediate impact: children would have access safe nutritious food so that they can focus on learning and playing.
- intermediate impact: children would explore what ‘healthy eating’ truly means, understand the role that food plays in their own culture as well as in society by growing a school garden, learning about food systems locally and globally, discussing issues related to food security and learning to prepare delicious culturally appropriate meals.
- long-term impact: children would grow into adults who think critically about the world around them and can support and sustain themselves (better able to focus at school may mean more likely to succeed in society, know how to grow and cook healthy foods, understand the relationship between themselves, food and the environment). They may also be healthier, reducing negative impacts on our health care system.
You can read more about this on Food Secure Canada’s page on a national healthy school food program. This year, ask your local candidates what they think about giving kids access to healthy food and EatThinkVote.
We like to involve our toddler in as many aspects of our lives as makes sense. As a 1 year old, he does things like:
- help set the table by carrying utensils and plates from the kitchen to the table (in an adjoining room).
- wipe up spills, especially if he caused them.
- put things away after using them (toys into their basket, books onto the shelf, household items).
- wash vegetables.
- put groceries away after we buy them and bring them home.
- help carry laundry to the washing machine and put clothes into the washing machine (or take them out and put them into the laundry basket after they’ve been washed).
- sweep or vacuum.
- take out a wash cloth from the cupboard so that we can wipe/wash his face in the morning, then close the cupboard.
- throw garbage away (although he likes to take clean tissues out of the box and throw those away too).
- help empty the dishwasher,
- weed the garden and water the garden.
Someone asked me one day, “do you give your toddler chores?” I had to sit back and think about that, even ask for clarification, “can you explain what you mean?” because I had never really thought of these activities as chores. They’re just things that we do to help our household run smoothly and everyone does their part to help us achieve some end goal as a family (whether it be enjoying a meal together, maintaining a clean house, growing a garden).
Whether it be due to some combination of his personality and our mentality, he genuinely seems to enjoy helping us and shows pride in accomplishing things on his own. He observes us and likes to show us that he too can play his part. It is really amazing watching him pick up these skills…and I like to think of it as a little investment into our future. By having him participate early on, he’ll both know how to do things around the house (useful lifelong skill) and he’ll be accustomed to doing them as a member of our family. Maybe one day, he’ll ask if he can get paid for doing chores. A bridge we will cross if and when the time comes.
So to respond to that person who asked me if our toddler does chores, I said “our toddler loves to help us do things around the house”. After all, if you call it a chore, doesn’t it just become a chore?
In mid-July, we went raspberry picking at Proulx Berry Farm in Orleans. We are more accustomed to the busy seasons of strawberry and pumpkin picking, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there were just a few other groups of pickers for raspberries. Proulx is great as a U-Pick location. You pay a small admission fee per person but that cost is deducted from your berry price at the end (keep your entrance receipt!). Their pricing for both strawberries and raspberries seemed fantastic (compared to buying berries at the farmers’ markets). You take a short wagon ride (attached to a tractor – selling point for young kids) to and from the bushes. Raspberries are a bit easier to pick than strawberries as they grow on bushes (not along the ground). We went a few weeks into the season but there were lots of ripe berries to pick.
After we had finished picking, we enjoyed a pre-packed allergy-friendly lunch on a grassy area. Our toddler played on their play structure and with their numerous toy trucks in the sand ‘pit’ (really more like a huge pile of sand). We also visited their animals and looked at more tractors.
Young children are sponges. Everyone says it. Infants and toddlers seem absolutely interested in observing those around them and imitating them. In our household, we’ve tried to involve our toddler in our everyday activities. This, of course, would involve cooking. We built a Montessori learning tower and stood him up on it at kitchen counter height before his first birthday, so that he could see what we were doing as we prepared, cooked and plated food. We let him feel, smell and play with vegetables that we grow or pick up from our CSA share. If we harvest some kale or chard from the garden, he’ll help us wash the leaves. He mixes, pours and stirs things.
I’m not much of a fan of focussing on material possessions for birthday gifts, particularly for kids. My personal preference is to gift the gift of an experience. That could be a gift certificate to a paint-your-own-ceramic studio, some books and a pair of PJs, a crafted toy for imagination galore.
So to bring these two things together, I sewed some toddler-sized aprons for the 1 year olds in my life. My hope is that they can be used for arts and crafts, water play or cooking (read: versatile) and they’ll entice kids into the kitchen (and encourage parents to have their kids join them – since I know some folks don’t want to deal with mess…enter the apron!).
They weren’t absolutely perfect but my technique improved with each apron (shows I can still learn!). There is a nice big pocket on the front with a loop where you can slip a wooden spoon through. The apron folds up nicely so that the pocket is on top and the apron ties can be used to present the apron as a neat square gift. I slotted a wooden spoon through and added two felt carrots that I made to finish off the presentation.
New this week: potato, tomatoes, cabbage and eggplant! It’s certainly feeling like summer, with the tomatoes and eggplant.
We’re having a hard time keeping up with the zucchini and cucumbers because we get a handful of each per week (for the past few weeks). Zucchini, I will just keep blanching and freezing. Cucumbers, I think I’ll try my hand at pickling this weekend; just an overnight brining then some apple cider vinegar, sugar and garlic cloves?
Usually I am ALL OVER the kale in our shares but this year, we also planted a lot of kale in our veggie garden. Luckily everyone’s kale is doing great (I swear kale is a weed!) but that also means that we have a ton of kale. We’ve had a few containers of kale chips on our counter at any one time over the past few weeks. I think I’ll be blanching and freezing this week’s bunch of kale and any more that we can harvest from the garden.
The beets are delicious right now, sweet but not too earthy…but I know that we will be getting lots of beets in the fall so I’m having mixed feelings about all of the summer beets. Beets every week for half a year…. However, I do love that we get those beautiful beet greens during the summer; those we won’t see come fall!
Last weekend, we celebrated our very first garlic harvest! After eating the little scapes from our garlic last month, we were excited to see what the bulbs looked like beneath the soil. I think we harvested them a little bit later than we maybe should’ve (1 week earlier would’ve been good) but sure enough, we found fully formed bulbs! They were rather small but I’d still say we were fairly successful for a first ever garlic planting. These were from cloves that we picked up at last year’s Carp Garlic Festival. We’ll be going back to the festival this year to buy a few more bulbs for eating and for planting.
In other news, our tomatoes are still green but there are a good number of them growing larger by the day. We also have a healthy number of flowers that will become tomatoes very soon (fingers crossed!). The peas are doing fabulously but like last year, the plant is large and unruly. I really need to work on how to grow a nicely contained pea plant. Our purple beans are beautiful as ever and the plant looks like it is doing well. The chard and kale are producing good yields, and unlike last year with a mold issue, this year’s cucumbers are looking great! We’ve got a lot of flowers and a few cucumbers already growing.
I love seeing our vegetables doing well. It is so satisfying! But I also cannot believe that it is August!?
So fennel…really not a fan. There is just something about the smell and the flavour that I absolutely dislike (black licorice…). Otherwise, we had another healthy helping of zucchini (which I blanched, chopped and froze) and cucumbers, a lovely bunch of beets, onions, beans, carrots, kale and chard.
New this week: some cute and crisp green peppers and a bulb of garlic! Can’t wait to get more peppers!