What I call organic, my Grandma just called food

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

100 Mile Bread made by uOttawa student Sarah Campbell

Food that is now seen as “specialty” and that one has to go out of her way to find, such as local, organic fare produced by small scale farmers, was once the only food available. It’s true that in those days people had to put more effort into food preparation and had to think a bit harder about how to keep meals interesting with ingredients limited to what was grown in the region, however, even in situations of energy scarcity, trade conflicts, or war we were guaranteed a food supply.

Now the average item in the supermarket comes from over 1500 kilometres away and needs large water, energy, pesticide, and fertilizer inputs to support the large-scale, industrial, commodity crop farms it comes from. In fact, most the diversity we find in the supermarket is simply a manipulation of commodity corn and soy in the form of many different cereals, sauces, crackers, and candies. Our industrialized and commoditized food system has led to obesity, diabetes, a loss of land and jobs, increased greenhouse gas outputs, and the input of many toxic chemicals into our environment.

In November ten brave University of Ottawa students, many of whom are vegetarian, attempted to break free of this food system and retreat to the ways of our grandparents, eating only food grown within 100 miles of Ottawa. During their adventure they discovered the variety of food grown in the Ottawa valley, met the great farmers of the region, enjoyed fun meals together, and uncovered some unfortunate truths about the state of sustainable eating in Ottawa. While there is a lot of variety of what can be purchased locally, ranging from organic flour, to free range eggs, to tofu, to apples and beets, some products grown in the area, such as beans, are only sold in large bulk shipments for export, inhibiting a well integrated local food system.

We as individuals, and the University, as a large food purchaser, can help reverse this trend by weaning off fruit loops, however delicious they may be, and opting for sustainable, organic, local, and ethical food options instead. Read more about the discoveries of the uOttawa 100 mile diet challenge at http://solefooduottawa.wordpress.com/ and see the Ottawa Eat Local Guide at http://www.spcottawa.on.ca/ofsc/.


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