I had such an amazing few days, I had just had to share. My mind is firing on so many cylanders that I have actually became a little ADD at work yesterday.
Let me go back to an article I read last week in the Globe and Mail. The article talks about this community in VERY Northern Ontario that traditionally hasn’t had a lot of access to fresh food, specifically produce, and when they do they have to pay an arm and a leg for it ($13 for a bag of apples?!?!). An organization in Toronto, called FoodShare, has partnered with another organization to bring this community fresh produce, at reasonable prices, via truck, train and plane. It takes 3 days to get there, and the people are so excited to get it, it usually sells out in mere hours.
So, what does this have to do with me? Well, this article reminded me how grateful I need to be for what I have, for how easy it is for me to eat healthy if I really put my mind to it. I live in a community where there are plenty of groceries stores and produce markets, where I can purchase healthy, fresh and reasonably priced food. I was reminded even more when I went to the opening day of my local Farmer’s Market on Sunday. Here, I can buy direct from the farmer’s themselves ensuring even greater freshness and usually some pretty good deals. I forget that not everybody has such easy access to this. I forget how lucky I am, and how grateful I am. Without them, it would be really hard for me to make the changes I am trying to make.
Even in my own city there are large pockets of the city which are known as food deserts. Food deserts are “areas with little or no access to large grocery stores that offer fresh and affordable foods needed to maintain a healthy diet but instead often have fast food restaurants and convenience stores“. I first became aware of the concept of food deserts a few years ago, when I was living on the outside edge of my neighborhood. My neighbourhood is a fairly wealthy one, but it is bordered by an area to the west which is considered a lower income area. I realized one day, as I walked out of my apartment building, if I walked in one direction (towards the wealthy area) there was a little market store about a 10 minute walk where I could get fresh, healthy food. However, if I walked the other direction, there was only fast food and convenience stores for many, many kilometres.
The other problem is even when these areas do find a way to get to a store where they can buy the “healthier” food, they can’t always afford it. It is a reality that the cost of food had increased dramatically over the last few years, yet for the most part incomes haven’t gone up. I know that I personally spend a lot of my income on food. When I was living on my own, and I had more basic living expenses to pay, I didn’t always have enough money left over for food. I know that I was lucky, I had been taught how to get creative with my money, how to spread ingredients out to get the most from them and I could shop around for the best deals. Not everyone has this ability or access, which makes it even harder for them to be able to buy the fruit and vegetables. So they just end up eating fast food because it is easier and it is cheaper.
Ok, I am going to climb down off my soapbox now. It’s funny, I do not consider myself an activist. There are however, two causes that I am passionate about. One is literacy, the other is access to healthy, reasonably priced food. I have wanted to get involved with organizations, such as FoodShare, but they generally are looking for volunteers for during the week when I am working. But all of this has inspired me to, again, try to find ways to get involved and to get more educated. I have even signed up for a few more online courses all about this, as well as other food related issues. It has triggered a passion in me. In fact, it has given me what I like to call an “Oh-Shit” moment. This is similar to an “Ah-ha” moment, but more along the lines of “oh shit, this is my real passion, this is my real purpose”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job and I enjoy designing, but it doesn’t ignite the fire in me like this does.
One other things has come out of all this, a new appreciation and gratitude for my mother. My mother and I have a lot of baggage, and I often talk about all the things I think she did wrong, but I don’t give her enough credit for the things she did “right”. I don’t give her credit for the gifts she blessed me with.
My sister and I grew up in a home where we always had fresh, home-cooked meals. Sure, we had fast food and junk food as well, but those were treats and our main meals were usually healthy, nutritious and delicious. My mom was also exposing us to new and different foods, and while I didn’t always appreciate it then (alfalfa sprouts and falafel don’t generally go down well with 11 year olds) I am grateful for it now. Thanks to that exposure, I am usually open to tasting and trying a wide variety of foods. I may not always like them, but I am usually open to at least trying them. The exception to this is liver (well any organ meat really)…I don’t think I will EVER try liver again. The taste, the smell, the texture….BLECH!!
My mother also passed on to me the ability to cook without recipes. She would often cook by just throwing different ingredients in together and would have faith that it would all taste ok, and usually it was delicious. I find that this is how I cook as well. Like her, sometimes they don’t work out, but more often then not they do. It’s funny because I also find that the foods that she wasn’t the greatest at cooking, like roast beef (always overcooked and more then a bit leathery) are also the foods that I don’t particularly cook very well either. There were some foods, however, that she was really good at. Her vegetarian lasagna was AWESOME!! Super garlicky, spinachy and cheesy…soooo good! No matter how many times I try, I am still unable to make mine taste as good as hers ever did.
No matter how much, or little, money she had my mother always made sure we had healthy nutritional food. I know this is something she learnt from her mother, who had to feed a very large family on a ridiculously small budget. Thanks to her, I never felt hungry and I now have that same passion for food that she displayed. It is one area in my life where I often find I feel close to both her and my grandmother. When I am cooking something for the first time, and it works out, that little happy tasting dance I do is my way of thanking them for their gifts. In that moment, I feel the legacy both these women passed to me, and I get a little burst of love and gratitude.
So, you may have discovered by now what I have in the last few days – THIS is my passion, THIS is my purpose. How to incorporate it into my life, I am not sure yet. My first instinct was to quit my job and go back to school full time to study food security and equality. I managed to talk myself off that particular financial cliff (I am still paying of student loans from both my last forays into full-time education). Instead, I am going to continue taking online courses in my spare time, and am going to continue to look for ways to get involved on a volunteer basis. Eventually it may become something more, but for now it will be an extra-curricular pursuit.