When discussing sustainable food production, and certainly when trying to discern how to put the sacred back into food and farming, the issue of affordability and food access for all always comes up. Many would argue that local and sustainable food is priced for the more privileged.
To start, next time you see someone shopping for the best price at the grocery store, look at what they are wearing and whether their priorities are mixed up. Would they rather spend their money on their external appearance than buy wholesome nutrient dense food that nourishes their mind, body and soul?
Secondly, when cash resources are in short supply, we have the choice of reconsidering how we eat. The Stop (www.thestop.org), an innovative nonprofit in the heart of one of Toronto’s poorest and most underserviced neighbourhoods, has been working to ensure that low-income people have a place at the table. In their beautiful cookbook, ‘Good Food for All’, they offer more than 80 recipes divided into the four seasons, showing affordable ways of preparing fresh seasonal food. Consider giving this book for Christmas (available at amazon.ca). Not only will this book help change the world, one person at a time, but it will support The Stop’s work, an organization that is making a difference.
Making this choice, changing how we eat, will mean spending a few more minutes in the kitchen preparing food, but this saves money too! The last thing we want to ask for is cheaper food, because cheap food does not feed the body and brain adequately. Good food cannot be made cheap. Period.
Right now the government thinks they are helping, but they are putting money in all the wrong places. It really is too bad, because so much good could be achieved if money was put into projects like The Stop’s and like this one: http://www.agroecology.org. Check out Foodshare’s project (Toronto) under ‘Case Studies’.
In order to truly understand access to food that is nourishing looking through the lense of poverty, I think we have to experience it first hand. So here is my story.
It is the first week of winter. A few days of snow, and I am already snowed in. I love it, for a few days anyway, because it allows me to snuggle in, catch up on paperwork and reading, and contemplate. My cashflow has gone to zero, and its not because I have been Christmas shopping! I have completely cancelled Christmas this year. Every couple of days, I check my oil gauge. Heat is essential and must be budgeted for. Since I have not gone anywhere in a week, I have saved money by not having to refuel my vehicle. But my most important accomplishment is revisiting my relationship with food.
I made a large pot of chilly with extra beans and just a bit of meat. This got me through a week. I made red rice with green lentils, another weeks worth of food. I will admit that I stockpiled some milk in my freezer, and some chicken, when it was on sale. I bought lots of apples when they were in season just a few weeks ago, and they are keeping really well. And last week, I splurged. (I can see why so many go to McDonalds! It is cheaper, but why? See paragraph about ‘geovernment’ above). I paid $3 for the smallest butternut squash I could find, and that lasted me a week too!
I feel triumphant! I drastically cut my cost of living, but I am not sure how long I can keep this up. I live on a remote road in rural Ontario, which immediately adds expense. Making it through the winter without hiring a farmer with a big machine to clear out my driveway every once in awhile, could be tough. As I type this, the plow has just been by and deposited 3 feet of snow just in front of my car parked at the end of the laneway. Oh! And there is the Post. They can’t deliver the mail, because there is no access to the mailbox! So they carefully do a six point turn in the middle of the road and head back. What an adventure! My little snowblower will be hard at work, shortly.
No, I cannot move into town, because I share my property with my egg layers who produce my breakfast every day, and 3 Inuit sled dogs, a Canadian breed of dog that was almost made extinct a couple of decades ago. I shall not add to the problem by eliminating my 3, due to a cash crunch. Fortunately for me, I will be out of this predicament shortly, but what about those who must endure for much longer? What can be done to ensure ‘good food for all’? The Metcalf Foundation released a series of Food Solution Reports this summer. I hope they inspire. Click the link under ‘In the Spotlight’ at http://www.metcalffoundation.com/p_enviro_program.htm.