This is the fourth in a 5-part series of posts. Read on, or click below to read the rest in this series:
Post 1: The What and Why
Post 2: Planning and The First Two Weeks
Post 3: How Feeding Others Comes Back To Feed You
Post 4: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Post 5: The Parameters and How We Did
What we set out to do, and what is actually unfolding during this experience seem worlds apart. In truth, I didn’t think it would be that difficult to live off of $200. I also didn’t think it would be hard to eat a healthy diet full of local foods on that amount. I am quickly learning that I may be wrong. I am learning that our failure isn’t just financial. It is about access, knowledge, prep skills, prep time, and price.
And it’s about growing a local food scene.
After all of the great conversations coming out of our little food experiment I’ve been feeling equally hungry for more conversation on food security in Nova Scotia. So on Tuesday, I visited Lion and Bright for a presentation by Farm Works.
Farm Works is, almost literally, putting your money where your mouth is. The co-op facilitates the purchase of investments in local food. Those investments pay small financial dividends and also have tax benefits, but most importantly they help to ensure the creation and expansion of projects involved in the various elements that make Nova Scotia more food secure – from funding new farms to facility expansion for locally focused prepared foods and community grocery stores (like local source). Some of the benefits (other than helping secure healthy, local food on the table):
- Shares are $100 (minimum of one share)
- 35% Provincial Tax Credit
- RRSP Eligible
- $449,500 already raised.
- With interest and principle, that’s $473,000 already invested in 21 Farms and Food Producers
- 100% Community Supported
The event gathered a cross section of community together. It was interesting to listen to each person’s motivations for attending. There were new farmers, food processors, specialty food producers, restaurateurs, interested investors and people like me just trying to get a handle on where we start when it comes to food security.
I was the last guest to leave. On my way out, the owners called me back and handed me a box with the leftover appetizers. I could have cried. I waited until I got home so I could share the spoils with Drew. We sat in silence (unless you count inadvertent food moans) while we quickly devoured the box of treats.
It is going to take organizations like Farm Works, and the gathering, brainstorming, and collaboration of people – from government to NGOs to schools to families to farmers to grocers and restaurants – to change access to locally grown food and increase food security.
Our current stats aren’t pretty:
- According to Farm Works, Nova Scotia now has around 4,000 farms, down from more than 12,000 in the late 1960’s.
- We need to increase the number of young farmers, with many farm owners having reached a time when they would like to retire.
- Farm Works also indicated that around 8% of the food we eat is currently produced in the province, compared to 60% – 70% of our diets in the 1970’s.
- Our once-thriving pork industry has been reduced to 11 pork farms.
But we have some things working in our advantage, too. Renewed interest in local foods has led more and more restaurants to offer a range of locally sourced products to customers. Premium items like local wine and craft beer seem to be on the rise in popularity. And when it comes to growing more food in a community, we’ve done it before, and we can do it again.
While writing this post, I came across an old radio ad from the US encouraging citizens to start their own Victory Garden. Victory Gardens were a movement during the Second World War to get Canadians, Americans and Britons growing food in their own back yards or in community gardens. The campaigns were extremely effective. By the end of 1943, there were more than 200,000 Victory Gardens in Canada alone, with each of those gardens producing an average of 550 pounds of food each year (Wikipedia). That’s a lot of food!
The past 24 days has taught me a lot. I’ve never felt this hungry on an ongoing basis before, nor have I ever spent so much time thinking about food, when I’ll eat next, what I’ll eat next, and if we will have enough to get to the end of the month. So many people have been sharing their stories, tips, stats, and concerns about food security. So many people have indicated that they have, or continue to struggle to provide regular, healthy meals for themselves and their families. What started as such a simple idea – to see if we could spend less money on food and still eat a healthy, mostly local diet, has turned into a far more powerful experience than I ever could have anticipated.
Food should be about so much more than it is. It should be celebrated and shared and talked over and savoured. It shouldn’t be rushed, quick, packaged, sanitized, and uniform. And packaged, low-cost food is not the answer. Someone suggested on Twitter that we could have purchased 400 Mr. Noodles on our $200. In theory, it might fill us. That’s around six packages of noodles a day at around 380 calories a package, a total of 2280 calories. That’s just a little under the recommended caloric intake for the average man and just over the recommended intake for the average woman. It’s not a whole lot else. All starch-based calories, almost no nutrition, no vegetables, no fruit, very little fibre, no vitamins, and no money left over for anything else.
I am learning that for so many people food is stress. The cost, not having enough, eating too much of the wrong things, weight gain, food related illness, food handling and processing fears. But food can and should be about pleasure, too. Shared meals among friends, the taste of fresh produce, and yes, that first sip of rich, hot, delicious, locally-roasted coffee first thing in the morning.
I have become quite emotional about food, and not the emotions I usually like to feel when it comes to my meal (excitement, anticipation, and pleasure). It’s made me see all the holes, the gaps, the dirty side of one of my favourite things. I have found work, exercise, and socializing harder. I’ve been breaking into cold sweats, and experiencing a whole other slew of negative physical impacts from just a short disruption in my normally healthy and full diet. I am learning how hard it is to eat a healthy, balanced diet on a budget, and I worry what that does to our community’s economy, the strain on our healthcare budget…It is about SO MUCH MORE than one’s personal food choices.
It is about access.
It is about knowledge.
It is about prep skills and prep time.
It is about price.
It is about empowerment.
And it is about building conversations and communities around food.
As always, please take part in this conversation on #FoodSecurity in the comment section or with us on Twitter (@DrewMooreNS and @GillianWesleyNS) or facebook. When we finish our challenge on March 1st, we will be putting together a resource of low cost, primarily local meal ideas and we would love it if you chimed in (or sent links because there are many awesome local food blogs). Also, we will be compiling a list of organizations and initiatives addressing these topics so please send us any that you know of.
– Gillian (@GillianWesleyNS)