Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's all relative... (my apologies...)

Recently I had the opportunity to enroll into a local Community Food Mentoring Program. I will be honest, the reason I took this program was to get my Food Safety Certification (for free a $142 value) and then to have some time out, taking some training and connecting with people. I never thought too much about what it all meant - at least not past what I could get out of it.

The first day was lots of fun, although overwhelming. I attended with the larger group who are taking the full 5 week mentoring program as well as a group of 8 women from my community who were just attending the food safety section - we all wanted to get certified for safety reasons since we do so much locally with food. There are SO many rules in food safety! Some are great, some are common sense and some do seem like overkill, having said that we made it through, took the test and now await the results.

Christmas 2012 - Thankful
The next few weeks were/are on topics such as Food Security, Learning How to Eat Well for Less, Getting comfortable with the Canada Food Guide, learning more about sustainable food in our community,  learning how to teach adults  and my favourite part, cooking with a chef each week to create our wholesome lunches using a wide variety of foods. 

Local Pork, carrots & home made noodles
I have to admit, that day one I did not really "get" the purpose of the course. I also felt bad for the facilitators since they have a course almost full of people who are "the converted", people who are into local, sustainable, responsibly raised food, avoiding GMO's and who definitely reach for organic. As one fellow put it, "We are a room full of food radicals." Now, initially, I thought, great! It is awesome to be in a group of people who "get it" but, after the end of the first day, that we were NOT getting it.

What do I mean? Well, yes, we all know what we should eat, health wise, organically, etc, but what we were forgetting or avoiding was that NOT everyone can do this, not everyone has that choice. I am happy for myself that I have learned to use more of what is around me, I have learned to use more whole foods, less processed foods and I now understand that when I hear organic or no GMO's it simply means that I am making choices for better overall nutrition in my life.

I wasn't always this person though. I was a single mom. I had very little money. I had to make choices on putting gas in my car to get my daughter to school or buying milk and cereal to stretch my budget for the rest of the week. Yes, education is important, yes, healthy food is important but not being hungry? That was the goal for my girls. There were times where I didn't eat with them, I told them I had eaten earlier, or I wasn't hungry - this is what parents in poverty do. I faced decisions of food to fill my cupboards and my children's bellies, rather than to nutritionally fill them in a healthy way. AND yes at times, I was just lazy, or tired, or trying to cope. 

I realized on day 3 of my course, that we weren't all getting this. I had to step back, try to get across to my group that not everyone has the opportunity to grow their own food, shop across the border for better deals, bring food in from other cities or even have a car to drive around town to shop for sales. When a person has little to no food options they just do what they have to do. I had to stop myself from being hypocritical. 

So, I once again had to place myself in the situation of many Canadians around me. Parents who are not stupid, who understand that they aren't always making the best choice for their child, but families who are just struggling to get by. Yes, in many circumstances it is cheaper to eat whole food than processed food, but as this video link tells you, there are people who don't have the time to grow, preserve, prepare and they are working hard just to keep a roof over their kids heads. People who feel they have accomplished something by ensuring their kids have food on the table each day.

I am an advocate of good, healthy, GMO free, organic, local, sustainable foods - but, I also remember , now, that someone just trying to get through their week, will not appreciate what I tell them if I am lecturing them, or making them feel bad/worse about their lives. I remember now, I need to lead by example, kindness, sharing, thoughtfulness and hope that some of those tricks and lessons I have learned, may help someone else. If it doesn't that is ok, I will still be their friend, support them and understand they are doing the best that they can.

Sarah & Len - East Grand Lake - Sunset
We all do our best. We make improvements and slowly change. I still have some foods with preservatives in my cupboard, not really proud of it, but I do. Sometimes it is laziness on my part. Overall we eat well, healthy, locally but we are still able to go to someones home or a restaurant and enjoy a meal - knowing that it may not be local, etc. This course has reminded me I need more fruits and veggies in my diet. I am grateful for the opportunities I have and I know we do NEED change in our Canadian food system and will continue to advocate for that, but I will try not to be too obnoxious or annoying, ok? 

If you can - watch this video, inner city schools in the USA but Canada has the same issues. Take care and HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my American friends!

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