Chéticamp & L’École NDA Food and Garden Programs 2014-2016

In the fall we gathered food and garden leaders in Chéticamp at L’École NDA to share and record stories and impacts from two of years of partnership with the Our Food Project. Timeline This timeline illustrates the growth in gardeners, … Continue reading

Summer in Cumberland County: All the gossip

Despite having a challenging growing season this year here in Cumberland County, our local farms and community gardens are doing really well. With above normal temperatures and a drought to boot, some farmers were very worried about their wells running … Continue reading

A Living Library in Margaree

 

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Imagine the Possibilities? – Kimberly’s Dream

The Coady & Tompkins Memorial Library sneaks up on you as your eyes are pulled in all directions by the stunning vistas of the Margarees: rolling mountains, pastoral valleys, rushing rivers, and winding roads. There is a reason why those who can make a go of it here on Cape Breton Island are fiercely proud to call this place home. As families new and old to this landscape can attest, it takes more than a nice view to make a place home. With such a rural population, access to community resources is an ongoing challenge; a challenge that the library in Margaree Forks has met with open arms.

When you walk in the door, it is immediately apparent that this is more than a place to source books. Besides the comfy couch, the inviting play area, and the curiosity piquing displays of books, there is an over arching theme. Food.

Kim Tilsley is the Library Assistant in Charge. She is also a farmer, and her passion for food permeates her work at the library. The wall behind the front desk is adorned with a stunning, tear-jerking story quilt made by Kim’s mother, Bea Tilsley-Cummingham. It is titled Imagine the Possibilities – Kimberly’s Dream. The quilt’s blocks depict a vision of a library oasis, complete with a rainbow of vegetables, garden creatures, a cob oven, and of course, books.

Margaree Cooks! project

Margaree Cooks! project

Near the entrance, there is a large display board, depicting the progress of their Margaree Cooks! Project. The plan is to build a community run cob oven on the library land (owned and managed by the Margaree Area Development Association). Kim and Library Assistant, Susie Paddon, have been attending workshops on a rebuild project of the Park Avenue Community Oven in Dartmouth. “There is nothing like hands-on learning to really understand something. And we certainly got our hands dirty during the oven workshops!” said Kim. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer. Donations to support the oven project are being gratefully accepted at the library.

Chick Hatching at the library

Chick Hatching at the library

As you make your way back through the library, there is a newly hatched batch of chicks in a brooder box, along with information displays on chick development, and chick care. The children that visit the library cannot tear themselves away! At the back of the library there is an area set up with grow lights, where a table full of seedlings have been started for the library garden outside.

The Living Library

The Living Library

The library’s community garden is called Paul’s Garden, in honour of local gardener Paul Chiasson. His memorial fund allowed for the start-up of the garden. This was the pilot garden for the Living Library Project, an initiative of the Eastern County Regional Library. There are now six ECRL branch libraries with gardens on site, including Petit de Grat, Mulgrave, Canso, Guysborough, Sherbrooke, and of course, Margaree Forks. Others without the land base are doing some container gardening. Activities in the garden were linked to their children’s summer learning programming through their “How Does Your Garden Grow?” curriculum.

Tunnel of Pole Beans in Paul's Garden

Tunnel of Pole Beans in Paul’s Garden

 

Last year, the gardening season wrapped up with a harvest potluck. Offerings cooked up from the library garden included a cornbread made from Painted Mountain Milling Corn (seed purchased through Hope Seed). They dried and milled it themselves, before baking up the recipe below.

Besides vegetables, Kim is working on gradually incorporating fruit bushes into the garden plots, as well as the landscaped beds at the entrance. As we say our good-byes, Kim points out some little cherry bushes tucked in amidst the tulips. They are just starting to bud. This is indeed a living library, and it is a true gift to the Margaree community.

Cherries amidst the tulips

Cherries amidst the tulips

Cornbread
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
3 T. oil
¼ c. honey
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg

  • Preheat oven to 425⁰F.
  • In a large bowl combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • In a large measuring cup combine oil, honey, buttermilk and egg.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry, stir until just combined. Pour batter into a greased 8” square pan.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

Cob Oven and veggies in "Kimberly's Dream

Cob Oven and veggies in “Kimberly’s Dream

Jody Nelson is the Community Food Coordinator for Cape Breton with the Our Food Project of the Ecology Action Centre.

Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre
Learn more about our program at https://www.ecologyaction.ca/ ourfood
Or follow us on Twitter: @OurFoodProject
Facebook: The Ecology Action Centre

The Kids are Alright! Youth Engagement in Cumberland County

The EAC Our Food Project – Cumberland, has been working with local youth over the past two years on a variety of gardening and food skills training projects. In partnership with Schools Plus NS (https://schoolsplus.ednet.ns.ca/), students from the Amherst Regional … Continue reading

Super School

With the rise of electronics, children spend less time in the great outdoors. Not only does that mean that kids are more unfamiliar with their natural surroundings – as Jamie Oliver infamously discovered in the US on his television show, … Continue reading

Peer Pressure: We want a healthy school food program

We have invited guest blogger, Niki Black, to share some of the pressing food issues highlighted in the Eat Think Vote campaign, led by Food Secure Canada and others across Canada, in advance of the federal election on October 19, 2015. This week, Niki describes the importance of healthy food in schools for the future of our children. 

 

How well do you learn on an empty stomach? Many of us are familiar with skipping lunches or grabbing convenient and cheap foods that fill us up temporarily, but just don’t last. Lacking the healthy fuel we need, it’s hard to concentrate and work through the energy lows. The consequences are unhealthy and unsustainable, yet we expose our children to these same habits simply by virtue of sending them to school. Maybe that’s where we learned them, too.

Canadian schools are sites of learning, but we often don’t think about the role food plays in supporting that learning or what we’re learning about food. Any school has some level of diversity and this extends to the lunch that each child brings (or doesn’t) and eats (or doesn’t). School food environments can create a reliance on highly processed products and are unwilling hotbeds of inequality. In the lunchroom, there is nothing quite as effective as peer pressure. The temptation for “cool” lunches often yields slickly-packaged and less healthy foods, heavily marketed to appeal. Many kids simply don’t have a choice, with food insecurity affecting 1 in 6 children in Canada.

We lack the investment and policy guidance to provide one of the most fundamental conditions for growth: good nutrition. The Eat Think Vote campaign, introduced here, calls for a Universal Healthy School Food Program to address those inequities and ensure that every child has a healthy start.

Current school nutrition initiatives are a loose patchwork of provincial policies and charitable organizations such as Breakfast for Learning Canada, but these efforts are not nearly enough. Food insecurity leaves our children at risk for poor performance, peer conflict, and health problems that can persist over the course of their lives (such as obesity). Parents and schools are trying, but they require a solid foundation. A paradigm shift is long overdue.

The nutritional challenges of our schools are symptomatic of a much deeper pathology. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter released this scathing report after his mission to Canada in May 2012. In response, organizations such as Amnesty International turn a wary eye on us and wonder why this long-respected first world nation must rely on charity to patch its policy. Why don’t we transform those international condemnations into initiatives we can be respected for? Every person has the right to enough healthy food. Every single child.

Eat Think Vote calls for a 1 billion dollar cost-shared investment over five years to create just such a transformation. Reliable, sustainable meals at school can ease the pressure on family budgets, hectic morning schedules, students’ social lives, and the planet. Children will share nutritious food with their peers, thus fostering not only better learning opportunities but a deeper sense of equality and valuable food literacy to lay the foundation for healthy habits.

What might this look like? Imagine that every child has enough nutritious food to fuel their bodies and minds, and that every child understands how to make healthy choices, even if their circumstances don’t always allow it. Imagine what a nurturing role schools will play when gardens and cooking programs are as common as lockers and monkey bars, and children can eat together and respectfully accept that people have a wide range of food needs and cultural preferences. How might our nation’s food landscape heal when these food literate children use and share their knowledge both now and as they grow? We have a golden opportunity to create an ideal environment for sustainable learning and growth.

Sound appetizing? The election is almost upon us, but there is still time to sign the petition, share on social media, and get your chosen federal candidate involved. Let’s demand the best possible outcomes for one of our most valuable resources – our new generations. Today’s children will inherit our national challenges, and how we prepare them matters to everyone.

The Good Food First Program: A Year-end Review

  A call for healthy food in schools Twenty fourteen was an exciting year to engage in conversations around ‘good food’ in schools. At the recent Food Secure Canada (FSC) conference, hosted in Halifax during November, there were multiple sessions … Continue reading

Waves of Change: Notes from Food Secure Canada’s National Assembly

From November 13-16, over 450 people who care passionately about our food system arrived in Halifax to talk, share and, of course, eat.  The conference was inspiring and informative, and it’s taken me several weeks to process all of the … Continue reading