Monday, May 14, 2012

This is just the beginning....

Thanks again goes to our 10 participants of our Food Box Challenge. As readers, we all appreciate their honesty and candidness of what they experienced over the week.

As we now work on our plans to expand the food support program within our community, please remember to contact Kim at or call 905-584-2300 x202 to find out how you can get involved. Stay tuned! 

Karen Hutchinson – Caledon Countryside Alliance and Eat Local Caledon

Final Thoughts:

My final thoughts coming out of the week were mostly humble.  I did only do this for not quite five days and I choose foods I like when I could.  If I were to do it day in and day out, I am not sure how I would survive – I do know I would need all my best cooking, growing and food buying skills.  I have always respected food and I have a new respect for those who don’t have enough food.

I know there is enough food in the world to go around, it just isn’t fairly distributed.  I know according to Statistics Canada that 38 percent of food goes to waste from field to fork (Take a Bite out of Climate Change –  I know that we have hungry people, high rates of childhood obesity and diabetes and a farm income crisis.  It is a complex issue that crosses so many borders.  There are lots of local and Ontario individuals, groups, organizations and businesses working to make changes. 

There are many answers and here are some of the ones I know:

Eating local is one - see for local producers, events, workshops, school programs and much more.
Community farms for community gardens and community supported agriculture – see Albion Hills Community Farm ( for more information.  Also see Whole Village in Alton (, Everdale in Erin ( and others in Headwaters.

Community kitchens like the Palgrave Community Kitchen (, for workshops, fun food events, summer camps and kitchen rentals.

Local Farmers markets opening soon – June 2 in Bolton ( , June 20 in Inglewood ( and  other markets in Orangeville, Brampton, Georgetown and other communities.

Farm open to the public in Peel and Farmers’ Markets -see Grown in Peel ( and farms, markets, retailers and restaurants in Dufferin - see Dufferin Farm Fresh (

HAYville – a free youth food and farming entrepreneurship and skills building program for 12 to 19 year olds in Caledon and area (

Have your say on these issues by commenting on how you see the food system can change through the Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy Consultation @ Sustain Ontario

Finally, I want to thank Caledon Community Food Services for taking on this massive project to build not only awareness, but a Community Food Centre for all of the community.  At Eat Local Caledon, we look forward to working with them on the local food piece as we continue to grow our efforts with community programming and developing a local food distribution system for our Region. 

Karen Hutchinson, Food Box Challenge Participant

Friday May 11:

I like to think Friday was my best day for local food in the last few hours of the hunger awareness campaign – other than my morning coffee!

I started the day with K2 milled local oatmeal.  I tried a few type of oatmeal this week, but by far my favourite was K2 from Tottenham – just north-east of Caledon.  The oats were interesting and it was almost like it was a multi-grain texture.  They didn’t go mushy and they had incredible flavor.  Best of all, I knew they were local – grown and milled close to home by a true local food advocate and third generation miller Mark Hayho.  See for contact information.

For lunch, just before we met at Caledon Community Services, I had my brunch.  I had just received a newsletter from Kitchen Gardeners International and one of the posts was titled, “Dandelion Salads:  For those who like to Eat on the Wild Side” by Barbara Damorsch (, a gardening and culinary expert in her own right, but also Eliot Coleman’s partner.  He is America’s most famous four-season farmer.

So I had fresh wild harvested dandelion greens with a soft cooked egg on top.  It was an amazing finish to the week for a local foodie, but also something accessible to most.

Karen Hutchinson, Food Box Challenge Participant

Wednesday May 9 and Thursday May 10th:

Wednesday and Thursday meals both started off the same with oatmeal and the berry mixture.  From there again there was a combination of apples, cucumber, pita, eggs and mixed vegetables. 
On Wednesday I cooked the beans I bought.  That brings up an interesting discussion point on value, nutrition and cooking.  I happen to like chick peas or garbanzo beans as they are also known.   I like then plain, in mixed salads with cucumber, in soups and stews.  They also form the base of one of my favourite foods – hummus.

Beans are a great way to add protein to things if you like them, but they can be a hard sell to kids and also sometimes to adults.  We really need to do some recipe work to figure out how to make them more appealing.  Best of all, most beans or lentils can be grown in Ontario.

The next logical question is – dry beans versus canned beans.  The canned beans are dead simple and quick.  I know I ate my first round of the chick peas with just some canola oil and cider vinegar on them because I was hungry.  If I had limited food, I would probably look to the canned first.  But the dried are better value, higher yield and they don’t have all the preservation additives and/or salt.

To prepare the dried beans, you need to follow a two-step process of soaking and then cooking.  For soaking, you can soak overnight or boil for 2 minutes and let them stand in cooking water for an hour.  For cooking, you need to simmer them for 1 ½ to 2 hours.  It is not a quick meal if you are hungry and need to eat in a hurry.  But, you will yield 2 ½ to 3 times as many cooked beans as dried beans.  So for $1.29, I got 900 grams of dried beans or approximately 2250 grams of cooked beans – enough for my two can ration equivalent, two batches of humus and 2 sandwich bags full of beans for the freezer.  That is great value and a nutritious protein.

On Thursday, I made two types of hummus – regular and local.  I made regular humus for my family with chick peas, oil, tahini (sesame seed paste) and garlic.  For my local humus, I was missing two key ingredients – tahini and garlic.  I made a trip out to grocery stores to see if I could find some local nuts or nut butter with no luck.  I did learn from Soup Girl (Inglewood Farmers’ Market), who is also an expert in hummus and I work with, and that you can use any kind of nut butter in hummus.  The best I could do was some wild foraged walnuts that I had bought at a farmers’ market.  I figured I could trade those for something on my rations I wasn’t eating.  Then for garlic, soup girl suggested garlic mustard.  It is an invasive species that grows locally.  The hummus wasn’t bad, but I needed to find a better solution for the local butter.

As for garlic mustard, it performed really well and added garlic and mustard flavours to the humus by adding the leaves of the plants.  To learn more about garlic mustard, you can attend the first ever Garlic Mustard Festival in Belfountain on Sunday May 27, 2012.  Go to for more details.

Finally Thursday night, my kids and I had pasta and the canned tomato sauce.  I had my regular pasta ration and the kids had spaghetti.  The sauce was not bad – it was thick and filling, although I don’t usually like food thickened with corn starch.  I was quicker than how I usually make my own sauce from scratch starting with tomatoes.  The on-going dilemma presents itself again – quick, cheap and easy versus fresh, tasty and healthier.  When you are hungry, it is harder to cook and think about food choices and creative recipes.  We need to deal with hungry and healthy issues first, but right behind are local food and food literacy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kim D'Eri, Manager of Poverty Reduction Partnerships

Thank you to the ten participants and their families for bringing awareness to hunger in Caledon. 

Bill asked the question, "What next?"

Well, we are now working on our plans to expand the food support program within our community; addressing some of the challenges identified this week.  This will only be successful with the combined efforts of the entire community.  We need everyone's continued attention and help, going forward. 

Please remember to contact me at or call 905-584-2300 x202 to find out how you can get involved and stay tuned ....  This is just the beginning.

Thank you.

Jeff Rollings, Food Box Challenge Participant  

Day 5  Piggy

Well, here we are. The week has passed and we’re still standing.
Last night brought us an illustration of something that must be all too common in food bank households. I was passing through the kitchen. There on the counter lay the last remnants of the little hunk of cheese we had for the week. It’s our big treat and we’ve been behaving like it was gold, savouring tiny pieces.
 Without thinking, I popped the remainder into my mouth and it was gone.
Upon discovering this, Brandy was less than pleased. She expressed her displeasure verbally, then followed up with an email, waiting in my inbox this morning. Here’s what it said: “Jeff is a piggy. He ate all the cheese when he knew it was all we had left. $%!)head.”
A minor event, from which we will recover, but it made me think about how much tension there must be within families when there isn’t enough food, how easily a seemingly little thing like that can set of a Lord-of-the-Flies like devolution.

Today the Food Box Challenge participants met for a wrap-up lunch. It was all delicious, but I noticed that the thing I went for first wasn’t the cookies or the sandwiches. It was the raw vegetables. Even if my mind hasn’t been especially missing them, apparently my stomach was.

Also on the fresh and green front, my Food Box Challenge colleague Karen Hutchinson arrived with a gift for me: a baggie filled with freshly picked and washed dandelion leaves. I ate them. After my complaining earlier in the week that I wasn’t ready to go there, now I must also eat those words – dandelions are actually pretty good. (The secret, she tells me, is to pick from plants that have grown in the shade).
My main feeling at the end of this experience is guilt. Now I’ll go back to my wanton grazing, while actual food bank clients will face another week of the same, and another after that. Still, I do think my attitude has shifted. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought much about food before, other than how it tastes. As Brandy put it, we’ve both arrived at “a more visceral, tummy-rumbling empathy.”

Bill Rea - Food Box Challenge Participant

Well, I got through the week, not much the worse for wear and with a greater appreciation of what some people have to go through.

I think to many of us, the view of hunger we get originates from films shot elsewhere in the world, with the likes of Sally Struthers doing the commentary. They make valid points, to be sure, but overlook the fact the problem is also close to home, if not at home.

As I predicted yesterday, I have food left over. Several cans have not yet been opened, and Beth delivered them this morning to the food bank. The big reason there was food left over is because I think the ration was slated to last me seven days, but it only had to go four and a half.

With the exception of the headache I had Tuesday, I think there were no ill-effects from the experience, and I probably could have avoided that problem had I put a bit more thought into my planning. If the crummy set of bathroom scales we have can be believed, I lost two pounds on the process.

There were two feelings running through me through most of the days.

One was temptation. I am used to trotting a couple of hundred feet down the street to the variety store for some junk food when I’m feeling peckish, and that happens a couple of times a day. Also at lunch, there are at least four establishments within walking distance of my office where I can go to take out something. I had to resist all of them. That’s one of the reasons why I had such a surplus in my pocket money at the end of the week. With the exception of the daily newspapers I buy every day, there wasn’t a lot to spend it on.

And that ties into the other feeling I had; namely guilt.

No matter what kind of exercise I was involved in, I knew going in and throughout the week that I was doing it of my own free will. I had money in my wallet and could have gone out and bought just about anything I wanted to eat. It was just a stubborn resolve that kept me from doing it.

Such is not the case for people who have to use food banks for real. They don’t go out and spend the money because they simply because they haven’t got it.

I am not a wealthy man, but I am not poor either. I never have been. Like many households, my wife and I have the financial resources to meet our needs and answer some of our wants (if we were able to answer all of our wants, we’d probably just come up with a list of more elaborate wants). Thus I don’t really know what it’s like to be poor, or to be in a position that I can’t afford to feed myself without help.

I think I have developed a greater appreciation of what it must be like, and that’s been enhanced by conversations I’ve had with various people about what’s been going on during the week. The subject came up a lot when I was on assignment (probably helped by the fact I wore the red t-shirt every day).

But it’s still just an appreciation. I still don’t know what it’s really like. I think there’s only one way to find out, and I’m not anxious to go there.

If the object of the exercise was to spread awareness, then it was obviously a success.

Okay, more people know there’s a problem. What next?