How to help your community eat.

Kelli from the Tron shares Hamilton news, views, events and music on a weekly FreeFm89.0 show and podcast. 

While some of us struggle with over-indulgence and send a third of a rubbish bag of wasted food to landfill each week; other Hamiltonians don’t know where their next meal is coming from; go without, and can keep kids at home due to the shame of not being able to send them to school with lunch.

Robert Moore from Anglican Action and Poverty Action Waikato and Alex Bailey from the Catholic diocese of Hamilton interviewed for and wrote a report called “Breaking Leftover Bread: Kaivolution and food insecurity in Kirikiriroa Hamilton”.  Rob joined me in the studio to share that report with us.

Kaivolution recently reached the milestone of rescuing 350 tonnes of edible food for redistribution –  reducing landfills and greenhouse gas emissions.  While environmental outcomes of food rescue have been recorded; this report was instigated due to the need to record anecdotal evidence of the social value of the role Kaivolution has.

Access to consistent nourishing food is a significant issue for many families who are recipients of Kaivolution food.  The most serious physical consequence of this shortfall is seen with child hospitalisation for malnourishment doubling in the last decade.

The reasons for deficiencies vary – quality of the food we are eating is decreasing, with more processed, convenience and take-away foods being consumed.  The cost of living has increased faster than incomes with food being the safest budget to drop, without fear of persecution from a landlord, the power being disconnected or lacking the ability to get to work.  Pride is considered a barrier to accessing food, with recipients recounting the shame and stigma attached to seeking help through WINZ, who have decreased accessibility to hardship assistance.  Many also found the governmental organisation difficult to navigate.  The food assistance provided by Kavolution and it’s recipients allows a more empowering way to support ones family – and also builds communities around the 75 charities Kaivolution support.

So, what can we do?

Support local groups like Poverty Action Waikato, Living Wage Aotearoa and Reality Check Aotearoa. Among other campaigns, they advocate to lift benefit levels and introduce a living wage.  You can help by being aware of their work; liking and sharing what they do with your friends and whanau and attending events/rallies or donating where possible.

Donate food.  If you want to collect non-perishable food at work, or from home you can donate at a local food bank.  Their shelves empty out around Christmas so now is the time to start thinking about this.  If you have food that is edible but about to go to waste please contact Kaivolution.  This includes donating produce from your garden or trees.

Support local groups – or the Council to enable groups to plant fruit trees in public places and build community gardens to improve food sovereignty.  The added benefit of giving access to food is the community it builds around the group or garden.

At a political level, we are seeing calls for GST to be removed from fruit and veges and for subsidies to be put on nourishing food.  Food prices in the land of milk and honey have increased due to the demand from overseas for our exports – addressing the free market conditions could help reduce prices.

Consider using initiatives like Eat My Lunch, who match a meal you buy for yourself with one for a child who would otherwise go without.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopes to give ideas on how you can help your community eat.

Listen to my latest podcast, which includes the interview with Rob about “Breaking leftover bread: Kaivolution and food insecurity in Hamilton”.  (About 8 minutes into the show)

 

 

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Zero-wasting is hard – but let’s do this!

I don’t always overthink every decision in a supermarket, but when I do….

Let me share a recent “quick stop” at the supermarket with you.

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Unassuming bag of dilemmas

Butter.  I’ve been procrastinating buying butter because a) it’s expensive (due to overseas demand) and b) I was doing a mini-protest at New Zealand’s unsustainable farming industry (carbon emissions, water quality etc); but since I haven’t looked into vegan baking yet, I felt resigned to make the purchase this time.

Produce.  The most ethical way to shop for fruit and veges is from a market in terms of less food miles (carbon emissions), supporting your community and less packaging.  However, the best choices today were NZ apples and Fair trade bananas.  I had to reach over the heavily packaged apples and wrapped bananas to get to the “better choices” and even then they’re not perfect… fruit has sticker labels which is annoying (not recyclable) but laser tagging is on it’s way so it won’t be an issue forever.  I’m just going to put this out here – if produce is wrapped in plastic please leave it on the shelf to send Countdown a message that we think it’s stupid and wasteful.

Actually we have a selection of produce bags in our shop to choose from, which means you’ll never need plastic again mwah ha ha haaa

 

Deli meat.  We stopped cooking meat at home over a year ago, to protest animal cruelty and the impact of farming on our environment (which makes us ‘Reduceatarians’ lol) but I was hankering for a ham toastie…  The options were (since I didn’t take my own container); in one of their plastic bags, their container or as I found out in brown paper.  If you ask them to wrap it in brown paper – make sure they don’t weigh the item in a plastic bag and then tip that onto the brown paper – defeats the purpose, which I politely pointed out.  It does mean you’ll spend an extra cent or two on paper which is heavier but small price to pay.  I can chuck the paper in our compost but those flimsy plastic bags will last hundreds of years which is ridiculous for the 10 minutes use it will have.  The next best option would be one of their containers if you can commit to reusing it – at the moment I use ours to raise seeds 🙂

So a consumer dilemma with every purchase…. the silver lining is how much power we have with those decisions. We can’t be perfect all the time and every little change or thoughtful purchase helps.

But shopping can be a nightmare when you overthink things so to help us along on the zero-waste journey are Hannah and Liam “No waste Nomads” who are travelling around New Zealand running free workshops to show you how easy it can be. We’re hosting them at Go Eco on November 2nd.  Join me to get tips, so your head doesn’t implode every time you go shopping.

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I don’t want to swim in the river anyway…

*This formed part of my show on ‘Water’ – you can listen to the podcast here.**

I spent my childhood summers swimming in the Mataura river.  I lived in Wyndham, a painfully small hick town where all we had for entertainment was that river.  Even at a young age, it would be normal to spend your whole day there.  While I have heaps of good memories about hanging out there and learning to swim – something always stuck with me, though it wasn’t until I was much older that I understood it…  the stench. Did you know you could smell water while being underwater? Wyndham is downstream from Mataura which at that time had the Papermill and Meat works… utilising it’s position on the river banks to pump it’s discharge.  By the time the water got to us, it was rank.  But strangely enough we didn’t get sick – I’m not sure if it’s because Southland kids are tough or if it just didn’t have bacteria like E-coli we hear so much about now.  Back in those days Southlander’s were sheep farmers – dairy conversion happened in the 90s – this will have impacted on the water quality in replace of more stringent controls on what the factories did.  I wish this intro could have been about how clean the water used to be… I guess my generation wasn’t that lucky either.

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My family checking out the views around Pukete Pa, on the Waikato River.

That’s one of the reasons I went to the public meeting on swimmable rivers, hosted by the Green party.  Before we go further – no this is not about campaigning for the Green party – if National or Labour organised a meeting on swimmable rivers I’d go to that… but it’s obviously not going to happen, according to our current government there is no problem.  I believe it’s important to leave the planet for our kids if not better – at least no worse than we inherit it.  We’re currently failing them.

About 50 people turned up – which is pretty good considering it was a chilly Tuesday night.  Heading the meeting was Catherine Delahunty who James Shaw described as a “Warrior” and she is.  She has lead a public meeting for 10 of the most compromised rivers in New Zealand – she is a passionate advocate for protecting the wairua of the river.  Before I share some of main technical challenges with our water quality – I just wanted to remind you that this isn’t necessarily about swimming off Wellington Beach or Swarbrick landing… it’s about protecting our freshwater sources.  In the three elections that the Greens have campaigned for swimmable rivers – this election has had an unprecedented amount of support for that policy, partly because the Havelock North contamination reminded so many of us that we are NOT guaranteed clean water supply.  We have to look after what we have.

There were three speakers for the evening; who have dedicated their time and energy to speaking up against polluters. collaborating to improve policy and educating industry and the public on what our threats are so we can work together to address them. Contrary to popular belief this is NOT anti-farmer, it’s anti-bad practice.  Once we know more – we should do more and science is unrefutable… or is it?… we’ll come back to that later.

There are four main threats to water quality.  1.  Nitrogen levels. 2. Phosphorus levels.  3. Germs/bacteria, and 4. Sediment.  These were outlined in more depth and formed the base for the Healthy Rivers Wai-Ora plan (The Waikato Regional Council is currently collating submissions on this).  No one believes that the “80 year plan” in it’s current form goes far enough, far enough.  The focus on the night was our dairy practice – because that is the biggest contributor to pollution in our river (but not the only one, point source discharge and what us city dwellers puts down the sink and into our soil also contributes).  Fencing, is obvious and a part of the solution; riparian planting and planting native bush in general helps to counter run off.  A pollution levy (which could cost the ratepayers about $7.50 per year) to support good change.  No more dairy conversions (this is a big one).  At the moment we have 9 million cattle, that is the equivalent of 126 million people … without a toilet or sewerage system.  It’s undeniable that we need to decrease our cow numbers – but ultimately what does this mean for farmers?  Have you heard of the sentiment quality over quantity?  We need to shift from a growth focussed model (thanks to Fonterra) and focus on added and higher value output.  This can be done and there are heaps of inspirational farmers to prove this.  We need to make sure the land consented for dairy is actually suitable for it.  This comes down to our Regional Council doing it’s job.  We also need to change how we view our natural resources.  A controversial “Scientist” Jacqueline Rowarth has claimed our river is amongst one of the cleanest in the world and seems to think that if the river goes out to sea it is wasted – well it doesn’t work like that… We have to allow  nature to do what it wants to do and work with it.  Which brings me to science.  It can be confusing – but doesn’t have to be.  Our current government changed the acceptable levels of E-Coli in the water to make it look like the rivers were more swimmable… on paper yes – in practice… obviously no.  Can Scientists stand up and call the government out on this?  Well, only with a great deal of difficulty and guess what – it all comes down to money.  It depends if they can afford to have their funding cut.  This happens.  It happened to Mike Joy who is a fantastic advocate and happened to one of the speakers Dr Alison Dewes who agreed it was a real fear.

So… I know you’re all asking what can I do?  Well, I think it comes to a few easy things.

  1.  Help your community restoration planting activities.
  2.  Inform yourself to have an overview on environmental policies.
  3.  Sign the petition for swimmable rivers (whether you vote Greens or not, this is about sending a message that we want more for our river).

We have fabulous advocates in government; follow them – share their work, party politics aside.  And please, support our farmers.  This is not us and them, we have to support the farmers who the majority want to do better – don’t denigrate and put it all on them.  They deserve it.

We have to remember that “nature can heal itself if we let her”.

 

 

 

We made a worm farm – part 1

*Warning – I am no expert on worm farming – We are just “giving this a go”, so there’ll be lots of trial and error involved*

Worm farms are wonderful.  1. because food waste doesn’t end up in landfill (it actually makes up 30% of all landfill which is hideously wasteful but that’s a story for another day) and 2. because the worms will reward you by providing free natures’ best fertiliser for you.  This makes you a bit like Captain Planet.

While I sell a few different worm farm set ups in the shop, we wanted to give the DIY option a go.  Here’s how we did it…

Step 1.  We drilled holes in a bucket.

Step 2.  Put the bucket in the garden.

Step 3.  Put bedding, *yes bedding* in the bucket.  I used torn up paper/cardboard but we sell coir blocks in the shop if you want to be fancy (about $3 a block).  We tipped in some coffee grounds and scraps and put our “makeshift” lid on top.  We’ll get round to getting a proper lid at some point – we’re just focussed on it being dark in there – and also no vermin getting in.

Step 4: Put your worm family in their new home.  We flicked in a few worms from around our garden, but to speed up the process we’ll be buying some more worms from the Western Community Centre… (it’s $15 for an icecream container).  We’ll keep you posted on when we bring them home.

Step 5.  We wait.  One day, the worms will be like a machine… eating our food scraps to keep them from landfill, and with the added bonus of fertilising our garden directly.  The beauty of this particular in-ground set up is that it will help the area directly around the worm farm (which is smack bang in the middle of our vege garden)- and we won’t have to do the work like you do with the layer systems.

We’ve had varying luck with growing veges in the past, but with a change in diet, we definitely need to be growing more and regular crops to feed ourselves for less.  Something that has never really worked in the garden is cauli’s and broccoli’s which I really like – so I’ll be focussed on them.  They usually get eaten by something… we don’t use slug bait, or anything nasty… I guess that means we’re organic. 🙂

*****Update.  It’s been a few days since we set the home up – we still have to get our worm family – but the ones in there seem fine – I’ve been keeping it damp – but haven’t fed them since.   I took out a few handfuls of “stuff” too – I felt there was too much in there for them *****

Did you know about 30% of the food produced in the world is sent to waste?  

Did you know that matter, biodegradable or not, which is buried in a black plastic bag does not have the conditions to break down.  It will never go anywhere.

Did you know worms not only create a by-product (pee/poo) which is rich nutrients that help garden plants grow and stay healthy?

Did you know worms create tunnels, which help get air and water to your plants.

Captain Planet

Our generation (18-44yrs) needs to change the direction our world is heading in.  The sooner the better.  Decisions need to be made in the business and political spectrum to avoid the complete decimation of our planet and to create a society which is fair and tolerant.  To continue on our current path is no longer an option.

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Given, that the above statement makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist or mad woman I’ll elaborate.

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Natural resources are finite.  Money may come and go but the environment will not continue to renew itself to keep up with demand by our growing population and the exploitative nature of business.  New Zealand was once a beautiful, clean green country… but the standards are worsening and we need to stop the degradation of our rivers and waterways and not to mention our ecosystem and planet.  Carbon emissions causing climate change which will destroy the Earth as we know it, IS a REAL THING.  And… what’s going to happen if we don’t have bees?… which may happen if we keep using harmful pesticides in our gardens.  You’ve seen “A Bee movie” haven’t you?

The countless things you can do to help the environment will be the topic of another post but, here’s one to ponder over.  Shop consciously.

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Confessions of a vegan fence sitter

In the last six months or so I’ve been considering the idea of cutting meat and dairy products from my diet.  I’m expecting that it has a lot to do with my facebook timeline being full of posts showing battery chickens in cages, graphics showing the impact of dairy farming on the environment or plant-based recipes and foods which look 100% edible.  In fact, last year I had a plant-based pie business sell at my market and OMG the pies were delicious, and weirdly – I wouldn’t have known that they weren’t meat if no-one had told me.  (Check them out www.pyrony.co.nz)  It’s made me do some thinking and forced me to open my mind a little. contactAll meat lovers love pies… Pyrony is plant-based… so no animals or environment are harmed in the process.

There’s this joke.  “How do you know someone’s a vegan?”  “Because they tell you”.  And it’s true.  Many are very “in your face”, choosing to use confronting and kind of judgemental ways of pushing their rightness at you.  But, at the end of the day… they are right.  Consumption of meat and dairy products – animal welfare aside, is the single biggest thing that will destroy our planet and mankind.  I know this sounds rather conspiratorial and slightly dramatic … but it’s true.  It’s factual, and those facts are stacking up and becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.  We are single handedly eating our planet to death by allowing the levels of gas emissions to exceed safe levels for our climate.  We are allocating a disproportionate amount of our resources, namely clean water to sustain our dairy industry.  Not to mention pollution of our clean waterways by farmers (admittedly they’re not the only ones doing this but I don’t have time to cover that as well).

I could reference a heap of statistics to back up what I’m saying, but I’m not here to sell veganism to you or tell you that I’m right.  I’m merely here to suggest to you that there will be a point in the near or not too distance future where you will need to look at our meat and three vege diet and adjust it if we want our planet to survive.  Animal agriculture is depleting our resources, putting a strain on our environment and we need to act.  We need to act by changing our eating habits.  This will happen… one person at a time… and it will ALL help.

While some of you are semi-interested, some of you dismissal and getting ready to pen arguments (fyi… you are wasting your time), there are others that will have already clicked away from the post.  Do you know why?  Most of us enjoy a slab of steak with creamy potatoes, served with ice-cream and chocolate pudding on the side.  But guess what?  You can actually replace many of these … gradually, without missing them and learn some new culinary skills at the same time. Changing our ingrained ways of living, our lifestyle and how we think the world to be will un-doubedtly create an in-balance in beliefs which always causes discomfort.

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Ref: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/why-go-vegan/

As mentioned earlier… I’m a fence sitter.  I totally 100% believe that a meat and dairy free diet is where we are headed.  I’m just with many others who aren’t quite sure how to start, and how to do it – without exploding my food budget, and needing to learn to increase my cooking repertoire (I’m no foodie).  As it is, I drink soy milk instead of dairy because my allergies clear up, I don’t necessarily need meat at dinnertime (I usually only have it a few times a week because it feels healthier – plus actual meat (sausages and mince aside) is expensive but saying “I’m a vegan” takes it to a more committed step.  I was told, and I believe this, that you don’t have to “go cold turkey”.  I get that.  A decrease in consumption is better than nothing.  Swapping to soy, meatless days, choosing free range over the “cheap eggs” and even being open to the idea are better than ignorance.  That’s where I’m at… somewhere in the middle.

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Environment aside – cows are actually really lovely animals.  I had no concerns about snuggling up to this big guy (we called him Donald) – this is me introducing my daughter to him.

I don’t think the dialogue on our choices, and of course what that change in diet will mean for our dairy farmers is even here yet… but it’s bubbling under the surface.  Let’s face it, the ramifications for the dairy industry and New Zealand’s economy are huge, but the money end of things isn’t enough of a reason not to act.  Change won’t happen overnight but it is one that will be addressed at some point in the future.  Sooner rather than later hopefully.  In the meantime – consider the concept, consider dropping meat a night or two a week, consider swapping to soy – it tastes yuk but every single change in habit that you, and I do will help us to progress to a cleaner, more sustainable environment.  I’ll certainly keep trying… (I fall off the wagon sometimes) but I am committed to getting there.

 

 

 

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