world food day – October 16th

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Environment, Healthy Eating

World Food Day may sound like just another day in a long list of campaigns. This day, however is one that affects millions of people around the world, in every country and in every neighbourhood. You can do something about it right now!

Raising awareness around issues related to food security and hunger are not glamorous. People know that there are starving children around the world and in their own neighbourhoods as well.

Sure you can donate to the World Food Program, or many other worthy causes that will try and help the most desperate people.

You can also help right in your own neighbourhood. Community gardens, farmers markets, community kitchen and food banks all exists to help people gain access to fresh and local foods.

Cooking for an after school program or for other marginalised people is one concrete way to help feed hungry people. Volunteer at a  food bank, deliver meals to people who can’t get out, shop for an elderly neighbour, grow vegetables and share then with a friend. By building a community around food security we will ensure that we are all taken care of.

The 100 mile diet, locavoure movements and  organic farming practices are not  just fads. Caring about what we eat and where it comes from will  lead to more shared knowledge. People can empower themselves through education and  supporting local initiatives that focus on the issues of hunger and  food security.

Things have to change. Donate your money or time and help to be that change.

Need Food To Live

Posted by: admin  :  Category: B.C., Healthy Eating
Need FOod To Live

I was looking through my photos for some other picture, and I came across this old photo I took last year.  Need food to live. With the asterisk on either side. This sign is poignant.

I posted a link on this website for The World Food Programme after the disaster in Haiti. The world food programme, in conjunction with The United Nations, is the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger world wide, so states the website.

People die every hour of every day from hunger. The problem however is not “their” problem on another continent, it is right here in every small town and big city across the world.

Food security and local, organic and sustainable food choices are hot topics today. Our Landscape of food in the developed nation is skewed by the over abundance of food choices. Books, magazines, and  ultra sheik “Iron Chefs” revolutionised the food scene years ago.  You can’t open a paper or turn on the T.V. today without being assaulted with the colourful images and tantalising descriptions of food. Fast food, slow food, food culture, food revolution, obesity, anorexia, the list goes on.

People are building communities around food, co-operatives, farmers markets, community gardens, food banks and community kitchens abound. The scarcity of food has not touched everyone personally.  We are however only one  disaster or two away from being faced with real hunger. We rely too much on the system to take care of us. We need to take care of ourselves and others.

Helping to feed hungry people is one way to show them they matter, that someone cares about them, our brothers and sisters.

30 years ago a group of pop stars got together to sing and raise awareness about people dying of hunger in Africa.

Today the problems in Africa still remain. Now people realise it is also in our own school grounds, church basements and out reach centres. What we choose to do to help people is a personal decision, with a consequence that reaches far beyond ourselves.

Whether it is volunteering at the local food bank, cooking at a soup kitchen, donating canned goods or money, growing your own food and sharing with your neighbours, there are endless ways to help build a more secure food system in our own backyards.

People need food to live.

Food Security

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Environment, good news, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating

How secure is our food system? I am not talking about the Listeria outbreaks that are on the news lately, or the genetically engineered foods that also pose major health and environmental risks.  I don’t think the major risks are associated with terrorist plots, or regulations in animal husbandry either.  The most pressing issue is actually simple.  Our food source is not secure in North America! 06 06 09 farmers market 003

A visit to any major grocery store reveals that  most of the food on the shelves is not grown or packaged locally. The majority of fresh food today comes from other continents, especially in mid winter.   Not even a generation ago this was not the case.  Most of the fresh fruit and vegetables we ate growing up was grown in Canada and the United States, with a majority of the fruit coming from California and Florida.

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A simple Google search will reveal dozens of news articles about the successive droughts in California’s central valley, which has been known as the American “Breadbasket”.

No water means crops can’t grow, farmers can not continue without crops to sell, and we are forced to seek out food from central, south America, and Asia.

Most fruit that is imported has travelled thousands of miles, probably more then the average person who buys it from the grocery store.  The fact remains that if there was some type of disruption in the system , the food on the stores shelf’s would be gone within 48 hours.

Some other startling statistics are that for every dollar we spend only 6 cents goes to the farmer. In North America we spend about 10% of our income on food, while in developing nations they spend between 30- 60%!

For solutions we need to start in our own backyards. Growing our own food, buying from local farmers at farmers markets, joining food sharing projects like many that have sprouted up all over North America.

In my city there is something called The Biggest Little Garden in Town this initiative targets condo and apartment dwellers who want to grow in small spaces. Providing them with all the means and support to do exactly that.

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Many communities now run “fruit tree sharing projects” that have community members picking fruit that would otherwise be waisted. This fruit is gathered and delivered to food banks and community kitchens where it is distributed and preserved in workshops designed to teach the public how to do this at home.  Literally thousands of pounds of fruit have been gathered last year alone.

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Corporations are also getting involved by sending groups that want to participate in the community and build teamwork in their own companies.  Senior’s, families, people with knowledge to share, or who are interested in learning more can all come together to create and share what is inherit to all of us. Food is a staple in life, and finding a local and reliable sources is becoming a priority for more and more people.

There are many ways average people can get involved to help make food more secure. Take advantage of the abundance that is in your own neighbourhood and seek out ways to get involved in the food scene in your own city. Once you start looking you will be amazed just what you may find.

Meatless Monday

Posted by: admin  :  Category: B.C., Environment, good news, green living, Healthy Eating

Most people have heard about the connection between not eating meat and helping the environment.

Have you heard about Meatless Monday?  This is an international movement to get people to stop eating meat one day a week. It has been embraced all over the world.  The news media has picked up this story, schools, workplaces and families have all gotten on board to try alternatives and  help make a difference.

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The news has  run many stories about the connection to factory farming of animals (pigs) and the H1N1 Swine flu outbreak we are currently experiencing. There is no doubt that the unnatural lives that food animals live and the amount of diseases, antibiotics and hormones that are linked to animals raised in factory farms is alarming.

How can eating a plant based diet help the environment? Besides the amount of suffering and misery that would instantly stop, the pollution from animal waste, food grown for animals instead of people, energy to raise, kill, transport and process animals, would have a huge impact on the health of the planet.

There are a lot of places to turn to for alternative options. The top two are;

Earthsave is an organization that provides information and support to people who want to choose a plant based diet. This organization was stared by John Robbins, the son of Baskin Robbins, owner of the self-named ice cream empire.

PETA- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been around for 30 years. They have a lot of high profile spokes people, from Paul McCartney to Pamela Anderson. Their main focus is  in four areas, Factory farming, Fur farming, Animal testing, and animals in entertainment.

Choosing to “go vegetarian” or even VEGAN is a major shift in not only diet, but also lifestyle. It does not mean you must only eat beans, tofu or vegetables. There are thousands of recipes online and in the library and bookstores.

There are as many benefits to eating a plant based diet, even one day a week. Not only a healthier planet and  body, money savings and not participating in the pain and suffering of animals.

For whatever reason you choose to stop eating meat, it is a decision that will change your life forever, it will make a difference to the planet in numerous ways and it is a decision you will never regret.

World Vegetarian Week October 1 – 7 2009

Posted by: admin  :  Category: Environment, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating

October 01 to October 07 is World Vegetarian Week.  Countless Organizations around the world are joining this movement to promote a healthier, and more humane and environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

You are also invited to get involved!

Why a Vegetarian Week?

With nearly daily reports of severe droughts, floods, storms and wildfires, and climate scientists predicting increasingly warm temperatures, it is urgent to shift the world from its present unsustainable path to avoid a huge catastrophe. Many reports have shown the significant contributions of animal-based diets to global warming, so it is essential to get the urgency of dietary shifts onto the world’s agenda.

Everyday is an excellent day to be a healthy and conscious vegetarian, but October 01 to 07 is a nice opportunity to double our efforts and campaign towards a better world:

  • October 01 is the World Vegetarian Day

  • October 04 is the World Animal Day

What you can do

As a non-profit organization:

  • Send a press release or articles to local media about this week;

  • Invite other organizations to get involved;

  • Invite health stores, supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses to promote the vegetarian week, e.g. by having discounts or offering some vegetarian items for free;

  • Organize cooking demonstrations, talks, conferences, workshops or other events;

  • Create leaflets and posters and distribute them to stores, restaurants and other locations where many people go;

  • Create e Cards or postcards that people can send to friends;

  • Send a newsletter about the week to all your members;

  • Start a letter writing campaign;

  • Organize a Love Earth Gathering on October 3rd or 4th.

As a company:

  • Offer some vegetarian gifts to your employees or customers (a book, CD, DVD, etc.);

  • Promote a workshop, talk, cooking demonstration or other activity;

  • Organize a vegetarian lunch or dinner for all your employees.

As an individual:

  • Send letters to newspapers or magazines, sharing your experience;

  • Participate in leaflet distributing events;

  • Invite friends or family to a vegetarian dinner;

  • Join your local vegetarian organization;

  • Ask for vegetarian meals and talk about the vegetarian week at your local restaurants;

  • Speak to local clergy, educators, media and other people, stressing the multiple benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.

Where to start

  • Forward this message, translating into other languages if necessary;

  • Visit www.vegetarianweek.org, see what others are doing and what materials you can use;

  • Decide what you can do, as an individual, organisation or company;

  • Inform us about your plans by sending an email to info@vegetarianweek.org, which we will then publish in www.vegetarianweek.org and through the EVANA news system at www.evana.org;

  • Refresh and update your knowledge of vegetarian-related issues, so that you can be as effective a spokesperson as possible.

Source: Vegetarian week website

Local fruit in abundance!

Posted by: admin  :  Category: B.C., Environment, good news, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating

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This years unusually warm summer has left us with tans  and a bumper crop of yellow plums!  We have a neighbour on one side of the house with half a dozen fruit trees, and many branches are on our side so we have been gifted with many, many plums!

The trick has been to try and get them daily so not to attract too many wasps!

I have already made plum jam with a batch of red plums from the front garden, so now we move on to plum sauce!

08-16-09-plums-002I was looking at some history of plums and read that plums are the second most cultivated fruit in the world, second only to apples. Chinese are said to believe plums symbolized good fortune.  It has meant good fortune for us so far as well. I will post my recipe once I have canned all these sweet plums this week!

We’re jamming

Posted by: admin  :  Category: B.C., Environment, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating

Not the Bob Marley kind, the fruit kind!

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Last week in the blazing sun I decided to harvest our plum tree.

Well it was not my decision exactly. The plums were dropping off the tree at a rate so fast the skunks, squirrels and rats couldn’t keep up!

We gathered about six pounds for our first batch.

Once I had them in the house I needed a recipe. I looked online and was able to find many different ones, some calling for pectin or equal parts sugar to plums. There are various ideas on how to seal the jars once sterilised and how exactly to sterilise the jars in the first place. Luckily I do have some experience in the jamming and canning department as my family made jams and canned tomatoes when I was young. That kind of experience, namely a cold room full of strawberry jam, will have a lasting impression on a kid.

I first decided that I would not add pectin, a gelling agent commonly used in the canning process. Many recipes online said that plums have an enormous amount of pectin naturally and as long as you add some unripe fruit you should have no problem with the jam setting.

I also decided to use the local honey I bought in June from a family near me.

I already had the jars, snap lids, metal canning pot and a strong desire for jam, so I was set!

I washed the fruit, but did not pit it, next time I will, or at least blanch the fruit and pit it first as it is a huge job to remove the pits once the fruit is cooked.

I boiled the fruit in enough water to cover it, on a high temperature.

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Once the fruit was soft I drained and pitted it and returned it to the heat. I  added honey, about one cup to the three cups of fruit pulp. I boiled the mixture again for a while. Many sites recommend using a candy thermometer to check the temperature, but I just went on instinct. The jam thickened.

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While I cooked the jam I  washed the jars  in hot soapy water and boiled them in hot water.  I then put them in the oven on a low temperature to dry for about a half hour. I also boiled the lids and rings to seal the jars.

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I used the standard plate test to check if the jam was set. This simply means you need to put a few plates in the freezer, and once you are ready to test the jam, put a little on a cold plate and return it to the freezer for a few minutes. When you take the jam out run your finger over the jam or slightly push the jam, if it wrinkles it is set, if not, cook a little longer.

07-30-09-plum-jam-003The final step was to pour the jam into the jars,leaving a few fingers width of space on top and  being careful not to touch the inside of the jars with anything as not to contaminate it.  Then add the lids, rings and tighten the jars and put them into the canner and boil for ten minutes.

The end result was two jars of sweet and beautiful plum jam! There is something extra delicious about home made jam on toast, in cookies, or on pancakes.

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a little bit of summer in a jar?

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Now what to do with the rest of them?

Summer Fruits

Posted by: admin  :  Category: B.C., good news, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating

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We are blessed here on the west coast with an abundance of local fruit. This summer in our rooftop garden we have had huge success with tomatoes, peas, beans, carrots, lettuce, and radishes. Our cucumber plants are looking good, as well as the peppers and corn!

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We are extremely lucky to also have fruit trees on  our front lawn.

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Today I gathered a few pounds of red plums and will be preserving them in the next few days. I am going to use the local honey I got last month from another home learning family, so this batch will be 100% local and  organic!

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Don’t you just love summer!

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Something is a BUZZ in Vancouver

Posted by: admin  :  Category: B.C., Environment, good news, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating, Vancouver

bees

This spring, when I volunteered at the new Vancouver Convention Centre, I was thrilled to learn about just how “green” it is.

While the building itself is impressive, the view from the centre is worth the trip to see it alone. The real beauty in it is the six acre rooftop garden and Apiary (Bee Yard). The garden boasts some 400 000 native plants and grasses, and houses hives for 60 000 bees!

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The green roof can be seen here by anyone flying over the city.  This is quite a green sight!

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Some local hotels have also begun to keep bees in their rooftop gardens. The Fairmont Hotel, known as Hotel Vancouver, has added bees to their rooftop garden, and honey to their menu.  It’s fresh, local, sustainable and most of all, delicious!

bee condo

Bee Condo

Vancouver has taken the initiative to bring over 50 new Bee Condos to parks. They are manned by volunteers.  Bees face a number of threats, and none are greater than the toxic pesticides used on crops and ornamental flowers in the city.

A traditional food in all sense of the word, honey has been used to heal, as a beauty aid, stomach remedy, allergen cure,  and hundreds of other ways.

However you look at it, the benefits of adding these animals to our urban oasis are sure to be felt and tasted for years to come!

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Growing Green

Posted by: admin  :  Category: B.C., good news, green gardening, green living, Healthy Eating, Vancouver

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Our rooftop garden is growing well!

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It is amazing just how much you can grow in a small space! We have had very warm weather for the past few weeks and our garden has been loving it!

There is something satisfying  about eating food you have grown yourself.

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I am looking forward to eating some of these peas, and the tomatoes we planted too!

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Our garden has lots of these little guys as well. I guess they are helping to keep the aphids away!