Adding Colour To Your Meals

Guest Blog by Christine Crosby

Christine is a long-time volunteer and former board member of the Coquitlam Farmers Market Society. She is reveling in this abundant season and, as usual, cannot leave a library without a couple of cookbooks in her arms, always looking for new ideas.

In the quest to increase the quality (nutrition) of our food and reduce the quantity of our food (calories) adding in more colourful fruits and vegetables can help you towards this goal. At market it can be quite easy to pick up nutritious and colourful items but when it comes to actually adding them into our meals that can be a bit trickier.

One of the easiest ideas I find is to diversify the colours in your food. For example: instead of just fried potatoes, add peppers, spinach and green onions. This gives you a more colourful, healthy and tasty dish! Add some protein to it and you’ve got a meal (a moderate amount, remember the “size of a deck of cards” rule). What else can you add colour to?Coquitlam Farmers Market Box

Another idea is to add some colour to your plate. So instead of having a full plate of macaroni and cheese have half a plate and add a colourful salad (greens, chopped salad, marinated…?) or a beautiful stirfry to one side of your plate. I love the contrast of the rich cheesy noodles with a tasty vegetable like broccoli, or a pepper, carrot and swiss chard stirfry.

For kids there are sneakier ways to add in nutrition and colour. Of course the classic way is to cook a bunch of shredded or diced vegetables until tender, then puree them into spaghetti sauce. Kale chips are all the rage, maybe your kids might like them? Recipes are readily available online, as well as websites that give you ideas on how to get your kids to eat healthier. Raw fruit and vegetables make great snacks for kids. Pack these snacks with a healthy dip, and your kids will grow to like this idea (for example: fruit yogurt for fruit, hummus for veggies).

Sometimes identifying a cooking method can help you come to love and enjoy new vegetables. Have you been putting vegetables on the barbeque? They taste amazing, with or without a sauce brushed on them (use any salad dressing you have in the fridge). I like to haveFriday night as pizza night: what is in season that I can add to my pizza? Make it as colourful as you can. One of the easiest items to add is sliced greens (spinach, chard, etc.).

Another way to add colour, and flavour, to your food is to add herbs and spices. It’s simple to add green seasonal herbs to your salads or stirfries (right at the end of the cooking so you get their fresh taste). Add a touch of Indian spice with a yellow curry powder or turmeric (have you tried a curry sauce on a pizza? Yum!). And of course there are the wonderful reds of paprika, chili powder or cayenne that will add some spark to your food.

The ideas and colours are endlessly creative. So when you leave the farmers market make sure you have some colour in your basket or bags and you can look forward to some very tasty and colourful meals this week, to feed both your body and your soul.

Community Food Security and Sustainability

Guest Blog by Christiana Miewald.

Christiana has been a board member at the Coquitlam Farmer’s Market for 8 years now and has written this fantastic piece for Sustainable SFU. Here is the link to the original post.

Like the majority of Canadians, you probably think of yourself as food secure.  While less than 10% of B.C. residents indicate that they are food insecure, our communities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to food insecurity.  While issues of food security are most often focused on vulnerable populations, if we reflect on our own food consumption, it becomes clear that most of our communities are not food secure.

According to the Dieticians of Canada, community food security “exists when all community residents obtain a safe, personally acceptable, nutritious diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes healthy choices, community self-reliance, and equal access for everyone.”  While the food you eat may be safe and nutritious, it is also important to ask if it promotes a sustainable food systemcommunity self-reliance and equal access.

A sustainable food system is based on sustainable production and transportation practices.  The current industrial food system that provides the illusion of food security through an abundance of meat, fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, is the same system that contributes to climate change.  Climate change, in turn, is predicted to have severe effects on agriculture production, resulting in possible food shortages.  Droughts, shorter growing seasons and increased prevalence of pests are only some of the factors that are predicted to result in decreased crop yields worldwide.

One way to contribute to both food security and sustainability is to change our consumption habits.  The David Susuki Foundation suggests that consumers “vote with their fork” and buy local and organic whenever possible.   Buying local and organic food helps the environment and supports regional economies.  For example, supporting local farmers helps to ensure that small farms and rural communities remain viable.  While it may seem like food is more expensive when we buy organic or from our local farmers – especially when compared to the “cheap” food we can buy at the supermarket – if you think about the extra few cents you pay for local and organic food as aninvestment in your community and in promoting sustainability, it is actually a small price to pay.

Another component to community food security is equal access.  Too often food access within communities is uneven, resulting in poorer nutrition and health for those without the economic resources to purchase safe and nutritious food.   The fact that “each month, close to 850,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks, and 36.4% of those helped are children and youth” (Food Banks Canada’s 2013 Hunger Count), demonstrates that we do not have equal access to food within our communities.  Charitable food programs, such as food banks, are designed to provide short-term relief from hunger, however they have become an entrenched “reality” in many low-income communities.

An alternative to the charitable model is to work toward the “right to food for all”.  One organization that has been at the forefront of this movement in British Columbia is the Downtown Eastside Neighborhood House.  While the Downtown Eastside neighborhood has high rates of poverty and unemployment, the Neighborhood House strives to create an alternative to food banks and soup kitchens.  Their right to food philosophy highlights “the human right of Downtown Eastside residents to secure water and abundant, local, fresh and nutritious food that is available across the neighbourhood and delivered in a dignified manner.”  In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, this philosophy has been translated into public policy through programs such as People’s Restaurants and Farm to Consumer market stands.  These sites provide affordable produce and meals for all citizens and support local farmers.

In order to ensure all community members enjoy food security, each of us must examine our own food practices.  Take a look at where your food comes from and consider what it took to get it to your plate.  Where was it produced and by whom?  What are the working conditions for laborers who picked that tomato?  What farming practices were used to grow that cucumber?  How far did those bananas travel?  Changing food choices to make them more sustainable is challenging and won’t happen overnight, but making a few small changes may result in gradual shifts toward a more sustainable food system that results in food security for all.

July 3rd, 2014

Local Food and the Environment – Sustainable Agriculture & Environmental Stewardship

It’s ironic that when we discuss sustainable agriculture, it looks very much like the system farmers practiced prior to World War II. The industrialization of agriculture is a relatively new occurrence. In the post-war period chemical and armament manufacturers applied their skills to producing fertilizers, pesticides, and farm machinery. While crop yields increased, the specialization in single crops, or monoculture, became an accepted farming practice. The specialization extends to animal production as well, and industrialization has had a profound effect on the environment.

National Geographic cites a number of costs associated with this type of food production: “erosion; depleted and contaminated soil and water resources; loss of biodiversity; deforestation; labor abuses; and the decline of the family farm.”[1] Sustainable agriculture, on the other hand, includes farming practices that reduces pesticide use, conserves water, and requires less tilling.

An excellent local example shows how habitat enhancement and sustainable agriculture can be viewed as supportive activities. Cover crops are currently used on several Delta farms through a stewardship program offered by the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust. Winter cover crops “provide feeding habitat for herbivorous waterfowl and shorebirds, protect the soil from erosion due to heavy winter rain, scavenge excess nutrients like nitrogen before they leach from the soil, and increase organic matter in the soil, thereby improving soil structure.”[2] Farmers are also encouraged to plant hedgerows and natural grass borders that attract pollinators and other wildlife.

Consumers have an important role in building a sustainable local food system. By supporting farms that are managing the soil, conserving water, and reducing their use of pesticides, they are encouraging a more sustainable food system. Purchasing meats and poultry that have been ethically treated, makes a statement that you place value on food that is raised in a sustainable fashion. Farmer’s markets provide significant benefits to consumers that are looking for information on how their food is raised or grown. They can make those social connections with the farmers and learn about their production methods.

Policies that promote urban agriculture, local processing, and food waste reduction contribute greatly to a sustainable local food system. Community gardens are being built throughout the region, and the demand for plots far exceeds supply. Workshops on organic gardening, cooking and food preservation are offered by agencies and non-profit organizations, often at no charge. Municipalities are incorporating food policies into their land use planning, and some are extracting benefits such as community garden plots from developers.

We’ve come a long way in fostering sustainable agricultural practices, but still have a long way to go. If you’d like to learn more about sustainable agriculture, the University of California-Davis Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) has a great web site on the subject. A current initiative of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems provides a local example of a bio-regional food systems research project.

Shopping at our farmer’s market is an excellent way of supporting sustainable agriculture.