Tag Archives: The Stop

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?

Signs of spring

It’s still pretty chilly here in Toronto, but the garlic I planted last fall in our small raised bed doesn’t seem to mind.

by andrea curtisAnd the crocuses seem to be positively enjoying it.

by andrea curtisI’m going to wait for a patch of warmer days to get out my own personal brass band about spring, but I’m feeling much more hopeful about gardening—especially school gardening—now that Ontario teachers are back and able to do extracurriculars. It’s been a demoralizing school year on that front, and I was genuinely worried the garden wouldn’t happen this year—that all the momentum we’ve been gathering would be lost. Now it looks as though our plots can be salvaged for the spring. We’re planning to focus on celebrating the multicultural heritage of the families at our school and are hoping to plant some of the plants specific to the children’s cultures, as well as gather recipes from our school community.

In other good news, The Stop hit The Globe and Mail bestseller list this past weekend, coming in at #10 for Canadian nonfiction. Not bad for a book about food banks and the politics of food!

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Filed under City gardens, Community Food Centre, Kids and food, School gardens, 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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Growing good neighbours

This week, Crave, a web site focusing on food and health-related books, asked us to blog about our book, The Stop: How Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement coming out next week. Nick Saul and I decided to write about our experience planting a veggie patch on our city lawn—and some personal discoveries about the power of food.

urban gardenHere’s a taste of the blog post. To read the whole thing, check out Crave.

When we decided to build a raised bed vegetable garden on our small downtown Toronto front yard a few years ago, we thought mostly about the delicious tomatoes, peppers and fresh herbs we’d enjoy come harvest time. We ordered fresh soil, built a simple structure using 2x6s and some brackets and shopped for seeds at farmers’ markets. But the day the soil arrived, it was clear the harvest was the least of the pleasures involved in growing food in the city.

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Coming soon!

The book that I’ve been working on with my husband, food activist Nick Saul, arrived at our house the other day. The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement is a bit like our third baby. It’s been a long and interesting gestation process thinking about, researching and writing a book together and it was thrilling to see it for reals.

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If you can’t wait for the book itself to launch into the world on March 19th, an excerpt is coming out in Reader’s Digest next week. In the meantime, we’ve written a piece about the challenges of food banks in the April issue of The Walrus. The online version of the essay won’t be up for a bit, but you can find one of Canada’s last great magazines on newsstands everywhere great magazines are found. Nick and I will be talking about the book and the Community Food Centre (CFC) model a lot over the next few months. Watch here for details. For more on CFCs, visit the Community Food Centres Canada website or www.andreacurtis.ca

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

New book coming out in March

The Stop coverI’m thrilled to report that my new book, written with my husband, Nick Saul, is nearly ready and coming out from Random House Canada in the spring. It’s called The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement. It’s an account of Nick’s 14 years working with the community, volunteers and staff at The Stop Community Food Centre in Toronto to transform it from a tiny, inadequate food bank into a thriving, multifaceted community centre that supports people to grow, cook, eat, share and advocate for good food for everyone. Part story about The Stop’s people and evolution, part argument for re-imagining emergency food, part call for a new kind of food system altogether, it’s written in Nick’s voice (it is his story, after all), but the book was a true collaboration.

These days, Nick has left The Stop to head up Community Food Centres Canada, an organization that aims to spread the model they developed across the country. We hope the book will be a great calling card as he and his dedicated colleagues work to bring its innovations to other cities and towns.

The Stop is nearly finished (from our perspective—I’m sure the publisher has a few things to do before it ships out in March!), and we’ve been showing it to others, many of whom have offered very moving words of praise. A number of our food movement and activist heroes—people like Marion Nestle, Jan Poppiendieck, Frances Moore Lappé, Naomi Klein and Raj Patel—have provided blurbs for the jacket copy and publicity material. What a humbling and thrilling experience it is to show your baby to someone you admire and have them say they think it’s important and brave and must be read by everyone. Check back soon to read the advance praise here.

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Teaching food literacy

When you’re deeply immersed in a subject, it can sometimes seem as if everything is connected to it. I remember when I was writing my first book, Into the Blue, and every conversation I had seemed to be somehow related to the themes I was exploring. It was thrilling—a kind of revelation, as if the apparently diffuse world of ideas had somehow—conveniently—coalesced around my interests. Of course, it wasn’t exactly true in a global sense, just true for me at that time.

Right now, I’m in the middle of writing another (adult) book about food and food politics—my second book about food in 2 years—and once again it seems to me as if the ideas and themes I’m so engaged in thinking about are everywhere. So when I was asked to show how my book, What’s for Lunch? can be used as a curricular resource in Ontario schools, all I could think was how the ideas in it are connected to everything.

I don’t think I’m completely off-base, though. Food, after all, is the great connector. What you eat is directly related to your health and the health of the planet. Food is the biggest industry on earth—growing, packaging, selling, etc.— so, naturally, it’s connected to the economy, the environment and social justice.

There are endless ways that creative educators can involve food (and, of course, What’s for Lunch?!) in their curriculum. In fact, more and more people (check out FoodShare’s Meredith Hayes’ CBC interview on the subject here) are calling for “fooderacy” to become an explicit part of the school system. After all, with obesity rates rising among young people, and diet-related health problems exploding, you could argue it’s essential to the well-being of our country.

The Stop Community Food Centre has recently produced a fabulous guidebook—the basis of its Grade 5 sustainable food systems workshops—and made it available to teachers and anyone else who needs help integrating food into their curriculum.

The book was originally designed as a take-away for the Grade 5 teachers who bring their kids to The Stop’s incredible Green Barn. But it will be an excellent resource for any teacher (in Canada or elsewhere) who’s interested in developing programs around food issues. It is especially good on that hardest of subjects: how food is connected to social justice. Divided into five units, it includes suggested activities, resources and personal stories. You can request a copy of the guide by emailing general@thestop.org

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Filed under Kids and food, School gardens, School lunch

School garden inspiration

Guest post by Nick Saul, The Stop Community Food Centre

When it comes to school gardens, The Edible Schoolyard gets all the attention.

And after my trip to California this past week to take part in the American Community Food Security Coalition conference, including a tour of Alice Waters’ brainchild, I can say it definitely lives up to the hype. The grounds are beautiful and interesting, with an integrated garden and kitchen, chickens, a bake oven and what looks like ample resources.edible schoolyard 2But we also made a pitstop in Oakland at a place called the Cleveland School. It’s a school that serves a very diverse community and doesn’t have the star power of a celebrity chef behind it, but they’ve managed to create quite an amazing little oasis on a relatively small amount of land.

The story we were told on our tour is that at her job interview a teacher told the principal that the yard was really, well, ugly. The principal shrugged and said, whaddaya want to do about it?

cleveland school 1The answer was this amazing outdoor classroom. With the help of parents, kids, teachers as well as interns from AmeriCorps and Berkeley’s Center for Ecoliteracy, they now have a program that includes science and math as well as health and sustainable living. Kids enjoy regular taste testings and garden-related festivalsincluding Vegetable Soup Day, Harvest Festival and Little Red Hen Day. The gardens are mostly tended after school but teachers spend quite a bit of time outdoors with their students. During the summer, Family Farmers are provided with a training session and take care of the plot.

cleveland 2I was especially struck by the quantity and quality of the signage they have all over the schoolyard. It is fun and informative and makes sense of the garden for both outsiders and the kids who read/see them everyday.

cleveland school 3cleveland school 5I was also intrigued by the sun clock painted on the pavement. Sun clocks are human sundials, which use a person’s own shadow to tell the time. (There’s a company in the U.K. that will do all the complex measurements required to set it up for your school’s longitude and latitude.) I imagine that the kids love trying it out, and there are also tons of teaching applications.

cleveland 6 But the best part to me is that this whole project started out so simply and has become such a big part of the school. A very inspiring place.

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Good food for all

It’s that time of year again: come out and celebrate the harvest and all the good work of The Stop Community Food Centre.

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Filed under City gardens, Kids and food

Summer at the food bank

During March Break this past year I spent most of a day working at The Stop Community Food Centre in some of their emergency food programs. Mid-day, I helped serve lunch at the drop-in to some 80 people who came for the yummy Irish stew and salad with big hunks of donated artisanal bread. Later, I spent a few hours with the hard-working staff and volunteers in the busy food bank.

Aside from the respect, dignity and amazing efficiency of the people working there, the thing that really blew me away was the number of kids in the centre.

I suppose it’s not surprising, considering the fact that school was out. And yet, the challenge so many low-income families in this city and country face to feed their children—especially when school feeding programs aren’t operating—really hit home for me.

Now, of course, it’s not just a week that kids are home with their families, it’s the two months of summer that they must go without school breakfasts and lunch programs (such as they are in this country without a national nutrition program for kids!).

In NYC, there’s a summer meals program in which free lunches are available to children at various sites such as  schools, parks, pools, community centres and libraries. In Madison County, Georgia, the state Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering free lunches over the summer.

Here in Toronto, there is a dearth of options for low-income families in the summer. And food banks are hardly an ideal solution (not to mention food donations traditionally drop off come June and July)—according to Daily Bread, 15% of children who use food banks still go hungry once a week.

So what’s the answer? Well, a good start in Canada, at least, would be a universal school feeding program that extends into the summer for those who need it. With all the talk about childhood obesity, diet-related illnesses and other fears for the health and welfare of our kids, offering young people a healthy meal once a day—year-round— could be an incredible place to begin.

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Filed under Kids and food, School feeding, School lunch