Tag Archives: food justice

The politics of food: a reading list

bookshelf food politicsIn our house, we devour books about food. Cookbooks, kids’ books, odes to the tomato, the apple, the cow or cod. We’d read poems about tofu if there were such a thing. (Anyone?) But it’s not just because we like to eat—though we do—it’s more because food is connected to so many other things we care about. Things like community, health, the environment and social justice. We’re not the only ones who’ve noticed.

So Nick Saul and I  wrote a list of some of our favourite Canadian books that see food in this integrated way—not just as fuel for the body but a tool for building a more just and sustainable world—and 49th Shelf has it up on their blog.

Some of the books will be familiar to regular readers. I did a week long series with Jeannie Marshall a year ago here.

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Filed under City gardens, Community Food Centre, Kids and food, School feeding, School gardens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

A trip around the blogosphere

I’m weirdly tickled by the idea of a blog tour. I know it’s old hat for most people but the idea of a virtual book tour, stopping in at various blogs, seeing the “sites,” chatting with new people, amuses and delights me. I picture myself like some steampunk traveller floating around in a hot-air balloon in an empty sky, then dropping down every once in a while to chat with a blogger who must hold tight onto the ropes, then release us the next day into the wild blue yonder (hopefully with a few new readers along for the ride!).

This week, my coauthor Nick Saul and I are off on that magical mystery tour, dropping in at various literary hotspots along the way. We are so grateful for their hospitality!

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First stop is Lost in a Great Book.  Jenn, who hails from the Creemore, ON, area, asked us some great questions about The Stop, the book and the future of Community Food Centres in Canada.

On day two, we meet the lovely Char from The Literary Word, who filled the book with post-it notes and called it “a highly addictive and wonderfully informative read.”

On day three, we stop in at Pickle Me This, the stomping grounds of writer,  editor and longtime blogger Kerry Clare. She said “The Stop is a fantastic story well told, compelling to read, and it will inspire readers to reconsider their relationships with both the food they eat and the people they live amidst.”

Day four is a stop at That Tall Girl Loves Books (this short one, too!).  Carrie did a Q&A with Nick and me, and asked us smart questions about Jamie Oliver, ideological versus logistical challenges and more. She called the book “a fantastic read. It was interesting, informative, and inspirational. Reading accounts of how everyday people made such profound changes and impacts certainly does make me want to get more involved.”

The last stop is Serendipitous Reading where Marci writes: “I urge everyone to go out and get this book. Not just because you have to but because you want to make change in your own communities….Get stubborn, get active and make your city or town better not worse.”

If you haven’t already, check out the fabulous animation CFCC produced to tell its story about the power of food.

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Filed under Community Food Centre, What's for Lunch?

Finding the words

I’m working on finishing up the first draft of another book about food right now. I’m cowriting this one aimed at adults (more about it another day!), but one of the things we talk about a lot when we’re working together is language.

There’s the jargon we are trying to eliminate from the book (not always easy). There’s avoiding any suggestion of paternalism (as in “you should do it because we say so”  —not a great way to convince anyone of anything IMHO as a writer, parent and wife).

But, most importantly, in this book about food justice and equity, there is finding the right language and telling the right stories that will resonate for people of all political and social/cultural stripes. Finding a way to convincingly express what we both feel so passionately: that food must be reimagined as not simply a commodity but a public good, and that everyone should have access to it.

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Filed under Kids and food, School gardens, School lunch

Talking food justice with kids

One of the biggest things we learned last spring when my kids’ school hosted a hunger banquet (see blog posts here and here for how it worked), was how hard it is to keep the conversation about hunger and food justice going with kids without focusing solely on charity.

The low-income meal at the Hunger Banquet: plain rice

Talking about (and) making donations to a food bank or international organizations working with hunger are great things for kids and families to do—and something that naturally emerges from the experience. But I think our more important role as parents and educators is to give kids the critical thinking tools to help make long-lasting differences in the world. We need to help them understand not only what’s happening and why, but also how, as citizens of the world, they have the power to do something about it.

That means finding age-appropriate ways to talk about difficult subjects like: Why do some people even in wealthy countries still go hungry? How is it possible that we have enough food in the world to feed everyone and yet there are a billion people hungry? Why do the poor suffer more from diet-related illnesses than their wealthier neighbours?

These aren’t easy questions and many teachers and parents don’t feel equipped to deal with them (nor do most teachers have the time to find a way to fit it into their curriculum). But I think we all need to try—there is too much at stake to throw up our collective hands.

Kamla Ross McGregor, Education Co-ordinator at Toronto’s The Stop Community Food Centre has recently published a great article in Jaste (Journal for Activist Science and Technology Education) about how she and her organization have gone about integrating issues of food justice and sustainability into all of their school-age food-based programs.

At their Grade 5 workshop series, for instance, they talk about how food gets from field to table, cook a First Nations meal, share their own food traditions and learn the down and dirty about composting. But they also play games and participate in specific activities intended to get them thinking and talking about food justice. They have developed one exercise in particular called The Game of Real Life  in which children are given identities (rich, low-income, on welfare, physically challenged, etc.) and they have to try to manage within their character’s budget and also eat healthily. As you can imagine, it’s an eye-opening struggle for many of them.

Most importantly, as Ross McGregor writes in her article, it’s “about thinking critically about what kind of life is fair and just.”

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch