Wow! Time does fly by really quickly. Just a few weeks ago I started writing for RUE, and it’s sad that this week will be my last entry as part of my Food, Hunger, and Social Justice class at the University of Regina. At first, my entries were a little more related to the class material, but over time, I’ve come to enjoy writing these weekly thoughts and ideas about the interconnectedness of food in every part of our lives.
Today, to try and sum up my thoughts about food and society, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about how we can make a change in the way our food is produced, grown, and our understanding of it. As I mentioned in my first post 6 weeks ago, we have a complicated relationship when it comes to food – and it is a relationship that we seem to know very little about. It’s important for us to understand what our food is and where it comes from in order to really understand what we have on our plates. Jamie Oliver, a true inspiration for his remarkable ideas (and one of my favourite chefs of all time), took a look at this complex situation in America as it relates to children:
It’s quite shocking to see that the next generation, today’s children, may actually live shorter lives because of what they eat. They don’t (and really we as a society don’t) value what they’re eating! And if we don’t understand our food, where it comes from, and how to use it, or cook it, can we ever value food or understand how food systems work? If we can’t get past the first hurdle, how do we expect to understand other food related challenges (i.e. hunger)?
Some people have started to acknowledge this problem, and different programs are trying to solve it. By educating young people about food, and by re-establishing the connection to food with older people, we can see change. Last week, the Leader Post ran an interesting story that truly made me feel happy – it was about a puppet show put on by the Farms Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS), teaching children where their food comes from. The show is told through the eyes of talking puppet animals as a means to be both educational and entertaining.
But one play can only do so much, especially when it doesn’t show children the full truth of where most of our meat comes from – painting a Charlotte’s Web tail is one thing, and animals caged in factory farms is another reality. While the play is a good to start to children thinking about food production, it’s important to show them the full truth and not just a fluffy fantasy. It’s definitely one step toward educating the younger generation about food early on in their lives but more needs to be done if we are to truly change the way that we value what we eat.
The future of our food system lies within the hands of these younger generations and they have the power to change it with our help. It is our responsibility to teach children about more than just the red barn model of a farm by having them participate in our community gardens, and visit local farms and farmer’s markets to get the full picture of our food system. Creating awareness and providing alternatives to food production gives these children an understanding of a healthy and diverse food system at a young age – helping them to understand society as they grow. The older they get the more aware they will become of the problems we face, and hopefully the more likely they will be to create change in our city, province, and our world.
Understanding our food system can help us to realize that food doesn’t just stop at our tables. Its interconnectedness spreads into every aspect of social justice. Issues surrounding poverty, hunger, health, unfair labour practices, gender discrimination, indigenous rights, and many others can be linked back to food production and our food systems. In essence, I believe that understanding our food system = working towards justice. I do not have all of the solutions to the food problems we face – I wish I did. However, by engaging in a dialogue about these issues we gain something powerful: education. I may not be able to change the entire world, but I can change the way I spend my food dollars, the way I choose my meals, and the way I purchase my food.
Ultimately, we all have the incredible power of choice: to educate yourselves, and choose what we believe is right. So get out there! Ask, learn, investigate, and most importantly teach – your family, your children, and your friends.
Regina Urban Ecology would like to thank Taouba for her contribution to the blog this semester! Her insight and thoughtfulness has helped to identify initiatives related to food production and security in Regina and she has identified areas where more work is needed to develop a healthy and diverse food system within Regina and the province.