Stimulating Saturdays: Fighting hunger with policy

How do you feed the world’s population while protecting ecosystems, cultures, people’s livelihoods and dignity? How do you democratize food, making fresh, delicious, wholesome foods available to all? How do you address hunger and inequalities? Food policy deals with all of these questions and more. This short video describes how food policy can fight hunger and was produced by the Interational Food Policy Research Institute.

If you’re interested in learning more about the policy direction for food in Ottawa, the organization Just Food, which champions a just and sustainable food system in Ottawa, features the discussion and learning forum, Food for All. The City of Ottawa also publishes the Nutritious Food Basket Survey on an annual basis and commented on the price of eating well in Ottawa in 2011.

CSA share mid-September

So it definitely feels like fall is upon us. I had to pull out my fall/spring jacket last night because it was nippy outside. I even wished I had put a hat on, it was that chilly! My CSA share also reflects fall’s approach: more root vegetables. Bit disappointed that last week’s share included nappa cabbage and this week’s share didn’t (the downside of biweekly shares)…I was hoping to make a second batch of kimchee using nappa cabbage instead of red cabbage. Ah well.

Chard (woot), beets, carrots, onions, hot peppers, green peppers, red potatoes, sweet dumpling squash, acorn squash, garlic, and a mini head of lettuce. There was actually a bunch of really awesome looking celery but I can’t stand celery so I traded it for another pint of onions (which explains why I have so many onions).

The burlap that I picked up at Bridgehead makes for a great backdrop for the veggies. An extra rustic look, no? In excellent news, Roots and Shoots is offering us fall shares. That means 3 extra biweekly shares (no weekly option), taking us into the end of November. I really hope their greenhouses do great because that would possibly mean a winter share at some point! I’ve really been consistently impressed by the quality of veggies provided in our shares by Roots and Shoots. The biweekly option isn’t enough for the two of us – lots of supplementing from the farmers’ markets – so we’ll have to seriously consider whether we switch to a weekly share next year; I guess we fall into the category of “two veggie loving, hungry adults”!! Who would’ve thunk it.

Oh yes, and in even more awesome news, the Ottawa Farmers’ Market will be running until mid-November and will be hosting Christmas markets on November 25 and December 2 at Carleton University. Yay!

Three perspectives on food through three films

I visited a library branch that I’d never previously been to; I love randomly combing through the DVD section and I love it even more when I find things I want to watch! At this new-to-me branch, I found 3 documentaries.

Ingredients: the local food movement takes root (a film directed by Robert Bates in 2009)

Pay the doctor or pay the farmer. Simplicity, flavour and quality are the most important. Pay now or pay later (some may say, suffer later). Growing food more naturally makes more sense. As a farmer, you’re producing food, not fuel. Vibrant healthy ecosystem = better colour, better flavour, better quality, better nutritional values. Taste and how the producer takes care of the land are important. We have been taught through the industrial food system that cheap food is better because it is more convenient and cooking is time-consuming drudgery. This is a well-made film featuring chefs, including Alice Waters, and farmers/ranchers that I’d definitely recommend watching.

Escape from Suburbia: Beyond the American Dream (directed by Gregory Greene in 2007)

The film is centered around the concept of peak oil, which is when oil extraction rates peak; after this point, production would decline and what happens thereafter is somewhat speculative.

The timing of when we’ll reach peak oil, or if we’ve already reached it, is also debated, but the one thing that is for sure it that oil is a finite resource that we will not rebuild within our lifetime (let alone many lifetimes). This core concept is simple but the implications are incredibly vast. You can’t have a discussion on peak oil without getting into politics, community dynamics, societal lifestyles and culture, lobbyists and corporations, environment, ownership and stewardship, personal responsibilities, and much more.

As the name of the film implies, connected to the concept of peak oil is the reliance on vehicular transportation based on the suburbia model. The premise isn’t necessarily to decry suburbs but to make suburban developments more self-contained, with services and food sources available within walking distance, and at the same time really considering the environmental toll that development takes, particularly when agricultural land is under consideration. Once the land is paved over, it will be incredibly difficult reclaiming the land for agricultural use. If our reliance on oil continues in the same way, then presumably, demand will surpass supply, costs will rise (prohibitively, I’d guess), and we won’t be able to transport ourselves in the same way that many of us do now: in our own personal cars. At that time, we’d probably want to have food sources nearby…but if we used up agricultural land for housing or other development, how can we supply ourselves with enough food to sustain communities? There are also many food deserts already throughout North America and this would become more apparent if access to cars was limited. Location, location, location!

Those are a few of the issues discussed by the film; you can see the trailer here:

Food Stamped: Is it possible to eat healthy on a food stamp budget? (A film by Shira and Yoav Potash in 2011)

Accessibility of healthy food options can be a barrier for people, particularly if there are socioeconomic factors at play. The film doesn’t get detailed with respect to the issues affecting accessibility but the filmmakers were interested in spending a week living on a food stamp budget (officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP). The filmmakers are a young couple living together who had time to pre-plan a weeks’ worth of meals, have access to a supermarket, do not usually live on a fixed income, have no children, and are familiar with how to cook foods. Although I’m wary of projects like this where folks take on a fixed income lifestyle for a very short period of time, I think they’re good if they increase awareness of food accessibility issues (eg. food deserts) and help us examine how our lifestyle choices affect people of all different backgrounds. I recall some Ottawa councillors taking part in a similar endeavour as part of the Living Wage Campaign a few years ago…but I’m not certain how much of an influence the experience had on affecting food policy in the city.

Ottawa Farmers’ Market – mid August

We visited farmers’ markets in San Francisco, Portland, and Vancouver, but we head to one of several farmers’ markets in Ottawa when we’re in town. I snapped a few photos at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market, which happens every Sunday from 8am to 3pm at Brewer Park near Carleton University. The market runs from May until December, though summertime is really the busy season with all of the fresh produce from local fields. I appreciate that this market is a producer-run market, meaning that every vendor produces whatever they sell; it’s so much more fun to walk around and chat with the folks making/growing the products then a market where they have vendors re-selling other people’s products. This market is also the largest in Ottawa (with the Carp Farmers’ Market being the largest in Eastern Ontario…or so the signage told me).

Welcome to the Ottawa Farmers’ Market
There are many vendors at the market selling produce, jams, chutneys, baked goods, meats, juices, breads, honey, other prepared foods, crafts, and handmade wooden objects. Oh and dog biscuits!
Fairly new onto the scene are brewgels: beer-infused bagels!
George from Castor River Farm sells grains that he grows (and some meat too). This is a pedal-powered grinder!
A beautiful tomato display from an organic grower. You know it’s August when…!
Although there’s been a drought all July, there is still corn to be had.
Joseph Henri makes the most beautiful cutting boards.
Bounty from the farmers’ market: peaches, apricots, nectarines, grapes, romanesco broccoli, tomatos, kale, and apple cider.

Each year, we buy “seconds” of peaches. These are the bruised or otherwise slightly imperfect peaches that a vendor wouldn’t sell as eating peaches (these are called “firsts”). There’s really nothing wrong with the inside of the peach…just the outside might look blemished, split, hole-y, bruised, etc. Anyways, I buy baskets of the seconds to peel, slice, and freeze for the winter. They’re usually quite a bit cheaper than the firsts and after they’re peeled, you probably can’t even tell that they weren’t perfect on the outside! Also great for making jams and pies, where you’re cooking the peaches or mashing them up.

As a side note, I read a tweet where someone’s child plays “Farmers’ Market” instead of “Grocery Store”! So awesome.

Carp Garlic Festival 2012

Welcome to the Carp Farmers’ Market
The market is held on the fairgrounds and inside the building towards the back of the photo…gloomy day but loads of people walking around!
The annual Carp Garlic Festival was going on…lots of garlic samples, lots of garlic varieties!
Have you ever seen garlic braided? This one was so colourful; it was part of the competition for the best decorated garlic braid.
There were quite a few garlic-based products for sale as well.
And of course, there were garlic bulbs for sale. It was fun tasting the different varieties then buying a few favourites to take home!
Of course, there were non-garlic products as well, like delicious veggies!
And there was delicious-looking ewe milk cheese from Back Forty Artisan Cheese of Lanarck County, Ontario.

We made garlic butter with the bulbs that we bought. I think my favourite variety was the Matechi. It’s so neat seeing the diversity among garlic bulbs and so sad thinking that you only get one plain white variety in the supermarket. One more reason to shop at farmers’ markets!






Farmers’ Market bounty and CSA basket – first week of August

How exciting to be visiting the Farmers’ Market in Ottawa again! (I photographed the first, second and third hauls from the farmers’ market but was away for a while thereafter) In preparation for a long weekend camping trip, we stocked up on food for both the trip and the upcoming week. We bought onions, lettuce, salami, sausage, honey, eggs, beans, potatoes…yum.

Farmers’ Market haul for first weekend of August

It’s also great seeing how much more produce is in our CSA basket now compared to our first share the last week of June. There was so much produce that I had to take photos of our basket content in two batches! There was a quart of zucchinis, a quart of cukes, a pint of mixed beans, a head of cauliflower (the spiky green thing – amazingly delicious…like super crunchy broccoli – that made me into a cauliflower lover), savoy cabbage, bunch of basil, a quart of tomatoes, a bunch of carrots, some chard and kale, onions, and garlic. And best of all, there was a surprise waiting for us at the CSA pick up: a WATERMELON!!! I was so ecstatic I couldn’t stop talking about it for a long while afterwards.

First CSA basket of August! Part One


First CSA basket of August! Part Two

And since I’m talking about my CSA, I thought I’d link to this great video explaining CSAs (in Ottawa!):