Archive for the ‘Blog Entry 2’ Category

Are We “Spoiled Meat”?


My first time in a developing country (a “real” developing country, not Mexico) opened my eyes to how much of the world lives. Nepal pushed my comfort zone to the edge with the immense poverty and over population. From eating with my right hand and wiping with my left to getting fleas and bitten by bedbugs. Lets not forget the open cremations along the river and the dead animals in the streets. Comparing life in Canada to life in Nepal we are spoiled in many ways. With luxurious consumer goods on one hand but also with a tainted agricultural and livestock production system on the other that serves only to spoil our food in a different manner.
The Sun Koshi River is where my expedition took place and for two weeks I was in “raw” Nepal. Terraces lined the river, a rugged place to farm but with the river where it is the farmers have no choice. Fortunately I was able to hike through the jungle and see how these people lived and what they ate.
Many of the small farms grew tropical fruits like mangoes, coconuts, pineapples, and bananas. Ginger, baby tomatoes and beans grew in patches along side corn and wheat. Rice filled up the flat areas of the terraced hillside that were also occupied by the water buffalo, chickens, goats, and lambs.
Most of these naturally deformed fruits would not make the cut to be sold in Safeway or even in a lower class produce shop downtown. All of these crops grew as nature intended, without pesticides, and the chickens and lambs were raised without growth hormones and/or antibiotics.
When the option was presented, the group was excited and we quickly gathered our rupees and purchased a pig for dinner. After watching it be stabbed in the heart with a bamboo stick then dipped into hot water to remove the hair, we began the slaughter in the river. At the end of the five hour process, as our pork was roasting, we discovered the pig was contaminated with Trichinellosis. The meat was spoiled. We dumped the meat in the river as the villagers shook their heads.
When thinking of feedlots in North America and how the animals are pumped full of many antibiotics, I cannot help but think of the pig. Pigs are genetically engineered just to be fat they cannot walk because they are too fat. People have to wear space suits or the terrestrial equivalent when entering a feeding zone because the pigs have no immunities.
We can all agree that feedlots are disgusting (to say the least) but so is Trichinellosis, a disease caused by eating a larvae of a worm (cysts), which shortly after consumption the worm makes its way from your stomach to your lungs and into your bloodstream (1). After learning this, many people on the expedition decided not to eat anything with eyes while in Nepal. But not me, as I can tell you the Chicken we killed the next night (in exchange for medical supplies) was some of the best I have ever had.
Along the river there were kids on bamboo rafts with cell phones, clearly mobile phone technology has taken over many developing countries. However this is not the case with food. The farming and eating in Nepal has not changed much in the last 100 years…”[f]or countless generations eating was something that took place in the steadying context of a family and culture, where full consciousness of what was involved did not need to be rehearses at every meal because it was stored away […] in a set of rituals and habits, manners and recipes” (2), and this is still taking place today in Nepal and many other developing countries.
Leading to the question: do you think that the developed world has actually spoiled the foods that we eat in the quest to produce more? And, are the simple traditions seen in developing agriculture, the ways where while natural disease persists, actually healthier?


The Pig with Trich                                                                                                                                                                       Look close and you can see the Trich

1. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/trichinosis/factsht_trichinosis.htm
Pollan, Michael. Omnivore’s Delemna.Pinguin books, New York.

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Local Businesses “Go Green”

“Going green” seems to be the biggest trend hitting Vancouver these days as issues like climate change and sustainability circulate through our media.  City residents can be seen toting re-usable shopping bags, drinking from nalgene water bottles and rallying around causes such as the improvement of public transit.  But as the green movement sweeps Vancouver what have local businesses done to cater to this demand? And furthermore, is the ever-popular catch phrase, “sustainability,” really a priority for business owners, or is it just another way to profit from a trendy cause?

For local business owner, Blake Hanacek, sustainability is more than just a catch-phrase.  Hanacek is the owner of a Vancouver-based coffee roasterie and café with locations in Yaletown and Granville Island.  In addition to a variety of fairly traded and organic certified coffees, the cafes also offer a seasonal lunch menu, organic wine and beer, and a number of organic baked goods. As a former UBC Global Resource Systems (GRS) student , Hanacek feels that sustainability is a founding principle of his company Agro Café and its sister non-profit organization, AGRODEV: “I built this company on ideas I developed as a Land and Food Systems student,” Hanacek states, “For UBC and all Vancouverites, sustainable development has to become a reality, not just something we pay lip service to” (Hanacek).

The company follows the principle of sustainable development not only in its initiatives to supply fair trade certified, organic coffee to its customers, but also in its choices of suppliers for dry goods and food products.  “We try, as much as possible to use only locally-sourced  and organic produce whenever we can” Hanacek says, “unfortunately BC’s growing season is relatively short, so often we have to make the next-best choice” –that is, produce imported from the US, the closest neighbor to BC with a winter growing season (Hanacek).  During the summer months, 85% of all the produce used at the cafes is grown in BC while the remaining 15% comes from suppliers who import their product from the US.  From the beginning of October to the end of May, those numbers shift such that approximately 75% of all the produce used is imported.  What’s more, the café uses only un-medicated, organic and free-range meats and fairly traded sugar for all cooking and baking.  “Currently our biggest challenge to our goal of carrying only organic and ethically-produced products is the milk situation” states Hanacek (Hanacek).  As a café which relies heavily on its sales of espresso drinks, it can use up to 200 gallons of milk per week, all of which is currently “conventionally” produced.  “We tried to use organic milk in the beginning, but honestly, Vancouver coffee drinkers just aren’t willing to pay that extra 50 cents per coffee to cover the cost” the owner claims (Hanacek).

Most important in this particular business owner’s conception of sustainability is the “circularity” of the producer-consumer relationship.  “Giving back to the community” is an essential part of sustainability initiatives, Mr. Hanacek feels.  “Just buying local products and shopping ‘organic’ isn’t going to make the changes we need to see environmentally or socially, we have to think of our output too” Hanacek states.  For this reason, the company composts 100% of its organic waste, all of which Mr. Hanacek personally takes to the UBC farm bi-weekly.  Beyond just the food waste produced in the kitchen, all coffee grounds, paper to-go cups, carryout containers and cutlery, napkins, etc. are biodegradable and used for compost.  “The UBC farm is the closest thing the West side has to local agriculture, we have to support that, and that goes beyond just heading out with signs to Farm Trek” Hanacek says.

So how have Vancouverites responded to Mr. Hanacek’s attempts to found a socially and environmentally responsible company?  According to the owner, sales have continued to grow exponentially since opening, yet the greatest challenges which face the company in Mr. Hanacek’s mind are costs and customer education.  Fair trade and organic coffee currently occupies a niche market which represents only 7% of all coffee consumption (Hanacek, Sick).  “A lot of times we see customers who come in and specifically request non-organic products,” says Hanacek, “I know it’s hard to believe! But some people seem to feel it’s just an unnecessary expense” (Hanacek).  Educating his customers about the advantages of supporting local agriculture, ethically produced coffee, and organic foods, is the first step towards expanding his customer base and ensuring his company’s success Mr. Hanacek claims.

While the “go-green” trend continues to grow and offer new opportunities for profit to Vancouver businesses, it seems that the greatest challenge for both consumers and producers is education and the commitment to “pay just a little more for what we eat and drink” (Hanacek).  In the words of this small-business owner: “What we consume not only nourishes our bodies but also dramatically affects our communities so we all have to make a commitment to our responsibility to educate each other.”


Hanacek, Blake A. “Sustainability and Agro Cafe.” Personal interview. 3 Nov. 2009.

Sick, Deborah. “Coffee, Farming Families, and Fair Trade in Costa Rica: new markets, same old problems?” Latin American Research Review.  43(3) 2008 p 194-208.

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Chickens in the City

Removed by author

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In this article, I examine the failure of the underground bus-loop development project at UBC. This project was going to cost UBC around 40 million CAD, at a time that the university is being deeply affected by funding cuts to Arts students, the lack of childcare, and impending threats to the spatial integrity of the UBC Farm. According to the TREK 2010 principles, UBC should be striving to preserve green spaces, build childcare facilities and affordable housing. The current UBC administration, however, has been set on building high rise luxury market housing condos (see Frankish 2009), housing that caters strictly and exclusively for Master of Business Administration students in Sauder, parking lots, and hoping to get going with the underground bus-loop project, considered ‘wasteful and unnecessary’ by students, including the AMS council.


TransLink, which was UBC’s partner on the underground bus loop project, has recently announced that they cannot help UBC fund it. Jung (2009b), writing for the Ubyssey, quotes a TransLink media-relations representative, Ken Hardie, who stated that TransLink “will not be in a position to fund a share of that project”. The university blames TransLink and the Mayors council for this failure, not the mistake of carrying forward a project that was rejected by students as a terrible waste of money.

WasteThere are a range of opinions expressed on whether the student resistance has had any effect in the failure of the underground bus loop project. This article examines two opposite opinions expressed in this public debate – 1. ‘The student resistance has nothing to do with the failure of the underground bus loop’ (e.g., McElroy 2009, and Knight 2009); and 2. ‘If it were not for the student resistance, the underground bus loop would be under construction” (e.g., Morgan and Frederick). I present you an analysis of both sides in order to generate more discussion on this issue.

Anyone who researched the published opinions regarding the underground bus loop project would realize that it has been marked by sustained student resistance from its inception. In my experience, for instance, students were already resisting the underground bus loop project during the Spring of 2007, when I became involved in student politics as an Anthropology rep at the Graduate Student Society (GSS) council, as GSS rep at AMS Council, and later as a member of the Vancouver Campus Plan Steering Committee (chaired by Nancy Knight). At that time, students were circulating a petition that eventually brought to an end the shopping mall project that the Board of Governors and CCP had ‘envisioned’ for the University boulevard.

According to the Alma Mater Society president, Blake Frederick, UBC has “turned down [his] request for information so far” regarding the actual detailed expenses the project entailed (Jung 2008b). The lack of transparency and accountability, especially in the context of ‘shady’ consultation and development projects (e.g., the underground bus-loop and the Wesbrook place), is a trademark of the current UBC administration. Blake Frederick’s position is that “a single dollar spent on the proposed underground bus loop was too much” because the whole thing had been “flawed from the beginning” (Jung 2008b). Nancy Knight, Campus and Community Planning (CCP) Vice-President, claims that UBC spent ‘only’ 400,000 CAD with this project. I wonder how many students per year we can fund with this kind of money.

Justin McElroy, writing for the Ubyssey (Oct., 29 2009), argues that student resistance to meaningless development has nothing to do with the extinction of the project, even though he is glad that it is not happening. For him, students are powerless, their resistance is futile, and the victory over the bus loop is simply ‘symbolic’. McElroy (2009) argued, for instance, that

“before we pat ourselves too much on the back for [the failure of the bus loop project], let’s keep in mind that the project has been scrapped because TransLink doesn’t have the $10 million needed after a recession, and that changed governance and funding structures have made life difficult for them—not because anyone really cared what students thought” (McElroy 2009).

This opinion basically mirrors and legitimizes the administration’s position (i.e., Knight 2009), and is aimed at making sure students ‘realize’ they are powerless. Nancy Knight traces the cause for the failure of the bus loop project strictly to a decision made by the city Mayors Council “not to provide funding for capital projects”, and to their inability to “meet their side of the partnership” (Jung 2009b). This argument assumes that there is nothing particularly wrong with the underground bus loop. The bus loop, according to this view, just got sucked into the constrictions of a funding cut. Now, Nancy Knight explained “[w]e’ll have to go back and take a look at our options for completely [surface level] facilities” (Jung 2008b). In Knight’s view, there seems to be no reason to believe anything students ever said made a difference, which is the same as McElroy (2009) argued.

Others, like Andrea Morgan, Friends of the UBC Farm President, argue that if it were not for students, the project would still be moving along. For her, students were able to delay the project just enough to contribute for its failure (personal interview, Nov., 4 2009).

One factor that has been overlooked by those who believe that the student resistance made no difference is UBC’s reputation at the Metro Vancouver Council – a “developer” that causes “consternation” – to quote the words used by the councilor Cadman in 2008 (personal video). He referred to UBC as a ‘developer’ when supporters of the UBC Farm approached the Metro Vancouver Council to ask for a letter of support to preserve the UBC Farm in its “current size and location”. The Friends of the UBC Farm delegation received the city’s unanimous support. CCP director Joe Stott, present in the occasion, was invited to address the Metro Vancouver Council, and chose to remain silent.

Picture 6

It would be also reasonable to suggest that the failure of the underground bus loop is also connected to the consciousness raising effect of the Great Farm Trek (April 7th 2009), and to the amount of media coverage of the struggle to save the UBC Farm from a developer-dominated administration. It would have been indeed surprising if the Metro Vancouver city council, pressured by food security and climate change concerns, would fund a construction intensive project that sought to bring carbon-emitting diesel buses into an underground facility at the heart of campus. UBC’s sustainability strategy commits to reducing carbon emissions, not concentrating them.

President Toope, on a Board of Governors meeting I attended in the Spring of 2007, in order to justify his support for the underground bus loop project, referred to students as a “transient non-expert population”, and told the Board and those present that we should be relying in ‘experts’ instead, referring to the consultants favoring the project. Toope made this comment after the Board had been faced with the detailed objections brought to their attention by student representative Darren Peets (PhD). Peets has been one of the most prolific writers on issues like the underground bus loop development and the consultation process for the campus plan (e.g., Peets 2008a, Peets 2008b, Peets 2009). One factor was overlooked by the UBC president – still then telling the same story of how he got lost when he first arrived in his car and could not find the entrance of campus – it was simply that students are experts in being students! There were people on campus who had been around for much longer than Toope (e.g., Darren Peets, Frankish), and who perceived the contradictions between the Trek 2010 doctrine and UBC’s development practices through their first-hand experience, critical participation in public debate, and knowledge of community and development needs, campus life, being on campus, being a commuter, and on how the Trek 2010 ideology translates or not into practice. In addition, students would have been the main users of a facility they disapproved of and did not want to see. It is time to give students more credit for their ideas, so they can become catalysts for positive change, with more decision-making power on development issues.

Our Streets, Our Choice


Frankish, Jim
2009    UBC Plans for the Affluent? In The Ubyssey, online, Oct. 15 2009.
Jung, Samantha
2009 No underground bus loop? Flailing TransLink can’t meet financial                 requirements of partnership with UBC. In The Ubyssey, online, Oct. 29 2009             http://ubyssey.ca/news/?p=10705
Knight, Nancy
2009    Open Letter to the UBC Vancouver Community, Oct. 27.
McElroy, Justin
2009 Bus loop: a symbolic victory for students. In The Ubyssey, online, Oct. 29             2009. http://ubyssey.ca/news/?p=10710
Peets, Darren
2009    Planning the Unplannable. Alex Lougheed, ed.  In UBC Insiders, online,            Oct. 14, 2009. http://blogs.ubc.ca/ubcinsiders/2009/10/14/planning-the-unplannable/
2008a UBC Bus Terminal: Unresolved Problems. Aug. 1st 2008. Facebook note.
2008b Vancouver Campus Plan. October 17th 2008. Facebook note.

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As a former graduate of culinary school and having spent a decade of my life working in professional kitchens I have always been surprised with the lack of focus on food issues within the Provincial Cooking curriculum. Although I respect the argument against the placement of politics within the classroom I cannot help but consider our cooks of tomorrow the champions (or saviours?) of our local food systems.

So as I peruse the web, checking out curriculums, reading menus and tracking down former colleagues in search of new and creative ways of sharing food knowledge, I am directed towards the most unlikely of places; my hometown.

BrainRecently a new course called management initiative 12 is teaching Brooks Secondary School students in Powell River, BC the importance of supporting local food systems through the production and marketing of preserves in a real-life business venture.

Powell River Educational Services Society (PRESS), set up by School District 47 to administer educational programs outside of the traditional classroom environment, purchased a business formerly called Mountain Ash Farms, from Elaine Steiger. The new name of the business is Mountain Ash Preserves and many of the clients that Steiger supplied plan to continue to support this student-operated business.

The class runs under the guidance of Michael Austin, a Red Seal chef, and Anne Hutchings, business instructor at Brooks. Students are involved in all aspects of the business, including cooking, labelling, delivering, invoicing and contacting Mountain Ash wholesale customers. The course operates out of the state-of-the-art kitchen at Brooks.

“It’s a linear program, which means it runs all year,” Hutchings said. “Right now, we’re working Tuesdays after school…The students are involved here on Tuesdays in production, but on other days of the week, they may be involved in delivering, filling orders, making labels and different business components that are involved in production.”

 “The business people in Powell River and in the Courtenay and Cumberland communities were very welcoming and took time to explain their businesses to the students. Overall, I think it has been very positive so far. It’s been helpful to have those clients already in position and the students do have some ideas of new clients they would like to approach.”

Hutchings had students work with her before production started to set up a database to determine which products are most in demand. “We realized we had 300 products and so we entered all of the 2008 invoices into a program to determine what products were really popular,” she said. “What we are focusing on are the top sellers. We’ll probably be looking at the top 30 to 50 products.”

Hutchings said some of the students have come up with some different ideas of items they would like to produce in addition to the existing product line. “We are now producing top sellers that we know our clients need for their pre-Christmas sales so we’re focusing on that. Eventually we will start introducing some new products,” she said.

Austin said he and Hutchings are trying to ensure the students are familiar with all facets, from finding available food sources to processing and through to the marketing. “They are knowledgeable on the products we use, how it was canned and how it’s been handled, rather than just being the marketing guys, who don’t have that knowledge,” he said. “Students are involved in everything.”

Hutchings said she believes the business has the potential to expand.  “The school program has worked out really well. It’s a board-approved course with a mix of students from culinary and business from the year before. The school board is pretty excited about the prospect. It’s a school-run, standalone business. It puts a face to a lesson.”

Interested in Culinary Arts? :

Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts – http://www.picachef.com/

Vancouver Island University – http://www.mala.ca/culinary/

Vancouver Community College – http://www.vcc.ca/programs-courses/detail.cfm?div_id=7&prog_id=40


British Columbia Ministry of Education:  http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/

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In our urban environment we can equate dumpster diving to the modern day food scavenging. If we are looking to steer away from supporting large-scale agribusiness and corporate monoculture and towards having a smaller ecological footprint, then dumpstering is a step in the right direction. There are a certain number of ‘risks’ associated with dumpstering. Although dumpstering may appear to be risqué, these risks are socially constructed and reproduced through proprietary and capitalist rhetoric. Health risks, legal risks and the risk of being stigmatized are all embedded in socially constructed ideas of what our food systems and consumer habits should look like.

When I told my folks of the meals that I had eaten with ingredients acquired from a dumpster, they gasped. My parents first concern was my health. Their idea of a dumpster is that filled with useless material, filth and decay. However, there is quite the difference between household trashcans and commercial dumpsters. Behind produce shops there are different bins for organics that are separated from other waste. Produce that is not esthetically pleasing will be thrown out because there is a huge disparity in people’s perception of what is acceptable for the grocery shelf, and what is edible. This disparity is what goes to waste. “Without waste, consumer capitalism cannot charge for the luxury of the flawless tomato or the freshly baked bagel…In other words, without waste, conspicuous consumption becomes far less conspicuous.” (Essig 2003). This perception of what is edible is created by rhetoric around food health, which is produced by agribusiness and food marketing. “Advanced capitalist societies are organized around surplus value or valorization for capital. That IS one reason why perfectly useable goods will be discarded rather than given away” (Shantz 2005). Our strict health codes expiration dates, best before and sell before dates allow huge amounts of edible foods to be thrown into the trash. Behind grocery stores, dumpsters contain sealed containers, cans, bins and bags of various preserves.

dumstering Granville Island

Dumstering Granville Island Organics

It is astonishing that one would be breaking a law by consuming others’ waste, but there is an ownership around dumpsters. Vancouver Safeway stores have placed locks on their dumpsters and some favorite dumpstering locations now have signs, locks or guards warning dumpster divers away. “This garbage proprietorship is also expressed in the fact that it is often multinational fast food chains that have the strongest dumpster security, including in some cases razor wire enclosures” Plocek (2004). This security then makes it illegal to dumpster. Health care rhetoric is also used around these laws. It is assumed that someone who eats out of a dumpster would get sick then proceed to take legal action against the dumpster owner. This idea is absurd as we can recognize that most folks collecting meals from dumpsters are either disenfranchised or anarchist. “Taken in tandem, the waste of food and the protection of waste [is seen] as the avaricious gluttony of American society” (Clark). We can see that the legal risks around dumpstering are a part of a systemic capitalist problem.

Perhaps the most disabling gap between mainstream and dumpstering is the stigma and the idea of dumpstering as an extreme. The idea of climbing into a dumpster is far from glamorous, too far, too radical for most. But for those who have been inside the dumpster, the amount of waste is too much to ignore. “Punks regularly liken mainstream food geographies to colonialism because of their association with the [developing world]: destruction of rainforests (allegedly cleared for beef production), the creation of cash-cropping (to service World Bank depts.), and cancer (in the use of banned pesticides on unprotected workers and water supplies)” (Clark). We can see not only the waste in the dumpster but the misuse of resources on a global scale. Dumpster diving folks or “Do It Yourselfers are not just living off the grid, but off of the excess that the grid produces. In an incredibly idealistic act of faith, they believe that by redirecting consumer capitalism’s “waste stream” to those in need, they are actually dismantling the master’s house with the master’s tools” (Essig 2002).

Efforts to support local permaculture and disable large-scale agribusiness will ideally lead to the end of Dumpstering, as there will be no conspicuous consumption and therefore no excess to thrive off of. However, in the meantime there is plenty of loot in those dumpsters, so lets move past these socially constructed risks and step towards a smaller ecological footprint by stepping into the dumpster.



Clark, Dylan. 2004. “The Raw and the Rotten: Punk Cuisine.” Ethnology. Vol. 43, No. 1.

Essig, Laurie. 2002. “Fine Diving.” Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2002/06/10/edible_trash

Plocek, Keith. 2004. “Free Lunch.” Houston Press.   http://houstonpress.com/Issues/2004-11-25/news

Shantz, Jeff. 2005. “One Person’s Garbage…Another Person’s Treasure: Dumpster Diving, Freeganism, And Anarchy.” Verb. Vol 3, No. 1. http://verb.lib.lehigh.edu/index.php/verb/article/viewArticle/19/18



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Question: How do turban-wearing Punjabi men, road-bike riding east-enders and satisfied stomachs relate? Answer: Free Indian-style dinner on Skeena 5th and at 7 PM every Monday thru Thursday. Don’t get it twisted, because every meal is a web of interrelated stories.

This is the story of how Preet Kaur Lidder’s full tummy came-to-be via bike and turban. Akali Singh Sikh Society works to fill hungry bellies to those who come to 1890 Skeena Street. This story exemplifies a major issue in Vancouver, food security, from an affordability perspective.

Akali Singh Sikh Society

Site of Free Community Meals

Caught in a gap between university life and dog-eat-dog working struggle, Ms Lidder’s financial status is borderline homeless. She can’t afford to eat three meals a day and pay rent. After four years of university, she rushes between two jobs a day on her mountain bike. Her first check will be cut in 10 days. Until then she must stretch the bank while working in Kerrisdale, living near Cambie and biking as far east as Boundary Road. As she puts it, “I needa eat! I know there’s more than enough food to go around in this town. Somebody can afford to feed me. And, I’m reconnectin’ with my roots.”

The idea is simple. There is always food in the temple. When you are hungry, you eat. As Sikhs, we do our best to lay no judgment by appearance. People of any culture are welcome to eat, by all means. As Sikhs we may judge based on action but not looks,” Jasbir Singh, the spiritual leader at the temple, explains.

A form of spirituality that evolved out of northern Punjab, India, Sikhism lays new roots in Vancouver. Preet Kaur Lidder a first generation Indo-Canadian raised Sikh describes Sikhism as, “Different for everyone. It’s not about your god or my god. Religion is nothing but a product of certain time and place. Everyone’s prayin’ to the same spirit.”

Jasbir details the rituals involved in eating at the temple, “Respect. We show this by sitting properly at a table when eating. It is disrespectful to eat or drink standing up. Hands are to be clean. Take as much as you can eat easily. Don’t waste.”

Don’t waste. This is common practice in northern India. Perhaps because some may be included in the“2.5 billion people still live on less than $2 a day;” as reported by the Human Development Report in 2005. While frugality customary practice for Sikhs, it has not entirely caught on for visitors to the temple. According to the Marion Nestle (author of Food Politics), roughly 2 billion are overfed. Frugality is a practice that is not often executed in relation to foodstuff in North America. Ms Lidder notes that when she is receiving a plateful of dinner at temple, “I always forget to ask them not to pile on the dessert. It ends up being so much food that I’m either stuffed or throwing food away. Either way it’s no good, know what I mean jelly bean?”

For two billion people on the planet, food sources are insecure due to lack of affordable meals. According to the Canadian Food Bank, “For 1 in 6 Canadian families, work does not pay enough to live and eat.”

Donations are made by people who attend temple services. Both food and money,” Jasbir Singh humbly explains from where funding comes. I asked Jasbir if people who come to temple just to cop a meal are required to give anything back. “Not to us,” he responded, “Just as long as they give good karma in someway.”

Food plays an important role in Sikhism just it does in every religion. Food is offered to the public because, “It is the true love of god. Our bodies are the temple of god,” Jasbir relates his take on an ancient Sikh tradition of always providing free meals at the temple. For him, food security is not an environmental issue but a social one. If the society in which he lives is able to feed its community then he is happy to provide.

As Ms Lidder treks via bike to fill her belly, Sikh turban-wearing men will greet her at the destination with a plate full of Indian dinner. Temple hours are 5AM to 8PM everyday, service begins at 5:45 twice daily. At the end of the meal, Ms Lidder asks an interesting question, “Why is it that I have hustle me and my bike from Kerrisdale, a very well-off neighborhood, to Boundary just cop a meal?”

Works Cited

Nestle, M. 2002. Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. Berkeley: University of California.

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Rows of soybeans at a farm in Wisconsin, U.S.A

Soy beans. Cancer causing or cancer preventing? Are there environmental impacts? If so, how large? What is there to do about it if there are?

I now can’t ignore a curiosity I have about one or all of those questions. I certainly would like to know if something I ate caused cancer. Wouldn’t you?

There is a lot of talk about soy products in relation to some of these questions and answers are not being addressed as “world news”. An article was released in the online World News Network that emphasizes benefits of soy. For example they mention that “Americans ate nearly 500 tons of modified soy, and feel just fine.” Many people will read this and feel content with their knowledge and consumption of soy products.

Soy products have become a trendy health food over the past decade or so.  It is emphasized how the protein content of soybeans is so high and thus many people eat them in place of other foods that normally provide the protein content of a “healthy diet”. If you do a search for general information on soy products you will most likely come across something mentioning how “Soybeans are considered a source of complete protein, i.e., protein that contains significant amounts of all the essential amino acids that must be provided to the human body.” (Global Oneness)

Many sites echo these thoughts talking about “soy’s culinary versatility and exceptional health benefits”(The Worlds Healthiest Foods) and how “the amino acid profile of soy protein is nearly equivalent in quality to meat, milk and egg protein” (National Soybean Research Laboratory)

If you were to look up information on soy or ask someone personally, most knowledge is similar to what I mention here.  Being someone who does not know a lot about specifics on nutrition I am pleased to read these facts.

Looking a bit further, I found more information on health related issues with soy products. It turns out that there is plenty of information that opposes general facts and knowledge about soy products. One article notes that,

It is lacking in the sulfur containing amino acid methionine…[which is] particularly important for…proper immune system function, and the body’s production of…one of the most important anti-oxidants…[which] serves to detoxify a variety of harmful compounds such as carcinogens.(Body Building For You)

Another article looks at nutritional value of soybeans and states that “only fermented soy products are safe” which include miso—made into soup—among very few other forms. The article also suggests that “modern soy products including soy milks and artificial meat and dairy products…pose a number of serious problems.”(Concerns Regarding Soybeans)

Soy products and cancer? In the same article it is mentioned that, “some researchers believe the rapid increase in liver and pancreatic cancer in Africa is due to the introduction of soy products there.” Others emphasize cancer preventing facts, “that soy products may be helpful both in preventing cancer and in helping to treat it” (Institute for Traditional Medicine)

Personal health aside, there are also global health issues related to soy. The excitement over this product has put it in high public demand and so cultivation rushes to meet. In an article written by Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) it is articulated that “The most serious problems caused by soy monocultures are linked to their continued expansion” which involves cutting down forests to make room for large crops. The Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) agrees that expansion is a huge issue, they also suggest that genetically modified soy would leave a smaller footprint and so there must be a global standard of cultivation in order to limit exploitation.

To counter this, the FOEI explains that,

Because of the sheer size of territory currently used for soy production, even the use of legally permitted agrochemicals leads to massive pollution of the countryside in the producing countries, causing depletion of freshwater resources of Indigenous Peoples and rural communities, biodiversity loss, and numerous health problems amongst the rural population, often with fatal consequences.

As may be deduced from this, there is a lot of conflicting evidence about personal and global health benefits of soy but the reality is that there continues to be a demand for soy products. The information that is accessible to people tends to favour particular perspectives—the pro-soy perspective.

It is important to stay informed on studies and updated information on foods such as soy, as to turn your entire life over to a bean, it would seem logical to explore every aspect of that bean as possible; to be informed on every angle, every perspective. It is our duty as consumers to not take information blindly; personal research is necessary in order to have an informed perspective.

Soybeans mean so much more to me now than a tasty culinary supplement; there are a lot more than proteins packed into that tiny green shell, and it is definately news worthy on a global level.

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