In our part of the world, autumn is a time of plenty. Fruit and vegetables abound and there is a frenzy to bring crops in and preserve the harvest for the sparse months ahead. In September and October, the Kamloops Food Policy Council’s Gleaning Abundance Program is at its peak of activity, with plums, apples, pears, and grapes to pick. Often, farmers invite us to help bring in the last of their tomatoes and squash before the first frost - sharing the harvest with our volunteers, who are more than happy to put away a couple of squashes for the winter and turn juicy, ripe tomatoes into sauces, relish, or paste.
Of course, in reality, our market shelves are seldom bare, and most of us don’t really have to worry about having enough food to get through the winter. If we don’t have time to make tomato sauce or jam, we can just go to the store and buy some. Preserving the harvest is more of a choice than a necessity.
This has not always been the case. Just a few generations back, people had to be more self-reliant in order to feed themselves. A seasonal abundance was valued and depended on. I can remember a time when most homes had a root cellar or cold room where there would be sacks of potatoes, onions or other root crops, boxes of apples, and shelves lined with preserves. By the end of winter, the apples would be getting soft, the potatoes would be beginning to sprout, and the canning shelves would be starting to look bare.
Globalization, and the industrial food system, have given us the luxury of being able to eat an amazing array of fresh fruit and vegetables all year round. We are able to sample cuisines from all over the world with their exotic ingredients at our disposal. The industrial food system has also given us innumerable processed convenience foods, making feeding ourselves and our families even easier.
The dark side of all this, of course, is that we are actually less healthy. We have moved from eating seasonal home-cooked food to a diet high in refined starches, sugar, fats, salt and processed foods. A combination of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles has sent obesity rates soaring, not only in the industrialized world, but in developing and low-income countries as well, where hunger and obesity often co-exist. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), over 670 million adults, and 120 million girls and boys are obese, and over 40 million children under 5 are overweight, while over 820 million people suffer from hunger.
The FAO predicts that by 2025, obesity and other forms of malnutrition will affect one in two people. The good news is that affordable solutions exist to reduce all forms of malnutrition, but they require greater global commitment and action.
October 16 is World Food Day, a day of action dedicated to tackling global hunger. Events are organized in over 150 countries across the world, making it one of the most celebrated days of the UN calendar. These events promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.
In Canada, many of us are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving, a seasonal feast showcasing the autumn bounty. As the name suggests, it’s a time to give thanks for our abundance and a plentiful larder, and to remember that nutritious foods that constitute a healthy diet are not available or affordable for many people.
For more information about Kamloops Food Policy Council, please visit our website: kamloopsfoodpolicycouncil.com