Tag Archives: FoodShare

Kale in kiddie pools and jalapeños in buckets

I’ve spent a lot of time reading kids’ nonfiction over the last few years. Partly because I enjoy it (and so do my boys) and partly for research purposes as I began thinking about writing my first book aimed at children.

Over and over, writer/editor Hadley Dyer’s name came up. Her book, Watch This Space: Designing, Defending and Sharing Public Spaces, with illustrator Marc Ngui, is a brilliant look at the importance of public space and how kids can be advocates for it. She’s also written some 13 other books and is executive editor of children’s books at HarperCollins, with authors like Dennis Lee, Kenneth Oppel and Michael Redhill in her stable.

Now, in between her full-time work as an editor, Hadley’s managed to write a new book for young readers, this one about urban agriculture. Potatoes on Rooftops: Farming in the City is a fun and informative trip through the world of growing food in urban areas. From spaceship-shaped greenhouses to aquarium aquaponics, from growing strawberries in old shoes to raising chickens in backyards, the book is full of interesting facts, helpful how-tos (composting, creating a teaching garden) and lots of food for thought.

With a combination of illustrations and photos, bite-size information blocks and longer narrative, it’s a book to dive into again and again.  Hadley manages to strike a easy-going, playful tone but Potatoes on Rooftops is also a call to action for kids to “Join the good food revolution.” In a foreword written by food activists Brian Cook and Barbara Emanuel, they explain: “The decisions we make today will affect the food system in the future and will have long-term consequences for humanity.”

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Filed under Kids and food, School gardens

Tomatoes are for sharing

This year while we were away on summer holidays, I left our garden in the care of a neighbourhood 13-year-old as well as our Garden Guru across the road. I returned to find it much as I left it, growing steadily, but I figured there’d be a few more tomatoes to show for the two weeks. I was a bit disappointed by the barely ripened full size specimens I found, plus a handful of cherry tomatoes, but put the lack of production down to the hot, dry summer we’ve had and my patch’s stubborn streak this particular year. But over the last few days, I’ve been delighted to discover that my neighbours took me up on my offer to eat what they found while we were gone. Seems our various friends and neighbours enjoyed our tomatoes quite a bit. There was even some guerilla watering by an older gentleman down the street.

The idea that our garden is a community project is a total delight to me. It’s been like that from the beginning when the soil was first delivered and everyone pitched in to shovel it into the raised bed. And since it’s right on the sidewalk people can watch its progress closely—and obviously take an interest in its success.

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Filed under City gardens, Kids and food, What's for Lunch?

Kids can change the food system

I’ve written about FoodShare here many times before. But when it comes to kids and food in Canada, they are true leaders, getting out in front of the issue of school meals and, especially in the last two years, food literacy. As executive director Debbie Field says in this new short video about their work, social change happens when kids get engaged by an idea. Changing children’s eating habits and attitudes will help change the food system.

I couldn’t agree more. My favourite part of writing What’s for Lunch? was talking to and reading about kids who’d taken action around their school food. (Read more stories about kids taking charge here, here and here.)  FoodShare imagines a time when not only will we have a universal school nutrition program, no Canadian child will graduate from high school without having had food education as part of the curriculum.

The Great Big Crunch, FoodShare’s annual apple love-in to promote healthy, local eating is coming up March 8th. Schools and teachers can sign up and access great resource material here.

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Filed under Kids and food, School gardens, School kitchens, School lunch

An apple a day

It’s not too late for schools to sign up for FoodShare’s annual Great Big Crunch on March 10, 2011. The event, intended to promote healthy eating and awareness about food systems—local and global—gets teachers and children talking about how food makes its way from seed to table and ends with everyone simultaneously biting into fresh local apples at the same time (all the way across the country!).

FoodShare has resources for teachers about how to integrate The Great Big Crunch into their lessons, apple-themed storybook ideas and much more on their site. Last year, more than 64,000 kids participated across Canada.

This year, The Great Big Crunch gets an added boost from recent research about the health benefits of eating an apple a day. Turns out my mother was right: they do keep the doctor away.

According to Science Daily, a new study to be released in May shows that eating apples and other food with soluble fiber (oats, lentils and seeds, for example) reduces the inflammation associated with obesity-related diseases and strengthens the immune system.

 

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch

Love in a bowl

There are few things I like more than a bowl of homemade soup on a cold winter day. In fact, I’d be happy to eat soup for lunch and dinner and anytime in between.

My youngest son has also become something of a soup junkie, though his repertoire is limited to a few favourites.  Sweet Potato Soup—with white beans, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar—a recipe that came with our Good Food Box from FoodShare many years ago, tops his list. He often helps make it and likes to have it at least once a week in his school lunch.

So in honour of the cold weather and upcoming Valentine’s Day, here’s my recipe for love in a bowl. (I often double or triple the sweet potatoes, onions and stock to taste.)

Sweet potato bean soup

1 tbsp each butter and olive oil

1/2 onion coarsely chopped

1 rounded tsp curry powder

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, diced

About 5 cups vegetable stock

19 oz can white beans (cannellini are especially tasty but navy or white kidney beans work as well)

1 tbsp each balsamic vinegar, maple syrup (both optional but highly recommended)

Sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

Add butter and oil to heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion; cook about 5 minutes until soft but not brown. Add curry powder; cook, stirring about 1 minute. Add sweet potatoes; cook, stirring, 1-2 minutes. Add hot stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and  simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or until sweet potato is soft. Add beans and puree until smooth using a hand blender. Add vinegar and maple syrup (if using), salt and pepper.  Garnish if you like with a dollop of yogurt,  parsley or coriander.

[photograph by Andrea Curtis]

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Filed under Kids and food, School lunch

Harvest cleanup

I officially put our veggie patch to bed this past weekend. I’ve left a few bits and pieces—like the kale in this picture—that seem to tolerate the frost we’ve been experiencing. It’s been a great year for our garden and it was satisfying to dig in the dead tomato plants and broccoli and even the disappointing eggplant that only just started to flower in the last month. I spent the time thinking about all the great meals we had from the garden (and continue to have with the tomatoes—both green and red), plus all the stuff I learned about growing both from trial and error, as well as the wisdom of our neighbourhood Garden Guru. I’m saving seeds and already planning next year’s fun.

Last week, there was a fascinating piece in The Toronto Star by Jennifer Bain on a school garden at a Scarborough high school. What sets Bendale Business and Technical Institute apart is the way the whole process—from growing to cooking, marketing to selling—is part of the curriculum. For instance, the landscaping and gardening students grow the food in the large garden, while those in the culinary arts program use the produce in meals they make to be sold in both the teacher and student cafeterias (swiss chard rolls stuffed with rice and beef, anyone?). Others sell the excess produce in a pay-what-you-can community market, while others still are writing a cookbook about the experience. They’re creating their own little food system. Now that is truly an edible education.

[Photograph by Andrea Curtis]

 

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Filed under City gardens, School gardens

Food education for the nation

Last week, The Globe and Mail ran an interesting series on school lunch (I was interviewed for it—check me out going on about the evils of marketing to children here). All in all, it presented a rather bleak portrait of Canadian (high) school lunch: cafeteria meals analyzed from one school were high in fat, grease and sodium, at another teens were  teased if they brought homemade, non-packaged food, and at schools that had reformed their food service, kids were rejecting the healthy options.

The main ray of hope was the suggestion that if we start talking about healthy food at a much younger age (elementary school), parents and educators are more likely to have some influence on children’s eating.

I get that it’s tougher to convince teenagers to make healthy choices when they are working very hard to distinguish themselves from the adults in their lives. Not to mention they feel invincible so most aren’t worried about their health. But throwing up our collective hands and offering high school students cookies and french fries for every meal surely isn’t an option, either.

In one of the Globe articles, Andrea Maldonado, who coordinates an after-school food program at  The Stop, argued that getting kids involved in growing and cooking makes them more likely to eat well. But the benefits of hands-on learning is definitely not limited to younger children. I’ve written here and here about the potential for older kids to get engaged with healthy food through growing and cooking. And witness the success of FoodShare’s Good Food Cafe —where students have an opportunity to help define the healthy menu and veto foods they don’t like.

I also think it’s a mistake for schools and parents to focus solely on the health benefits of good food. Food sits at the intersection of so many important things we all deal with on a daily basis—health, yes, but also the environment, community (what better way to connect with others than over a great meal?) and social justice. These are issues that older kids can really (groan) sink their teeth into. They may not reject daily hamburgers for their own waistline or heart health, but they might be interested in the impact of meat production on the environment and start to see the links between their own food choices and larger issues. Think of it as food education that doesn’t stop at the cafeteria door.

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Filed under Kids and food, School gardens, School kitchens, School lunch