Challenge #1: Food for Thought

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The Impact of Climate Change on Food Security:

Few of us today have any real sense of where our food comes from. The shelves and bins of our grocery stores magically restock with all the fruits, vegetables, and packaged food products we could ever want, and we come to take this constant availability for granted.

Increasingly, however, individuals are realizing that eating pineapples from Paraguay in February is a luxury that simply cannot last. Recent initiatives like the 100-mile diet – a challenge issued by environmentalists and authors Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon to only eat food that is grown and produced within 100 miles of where you live – encourage us to ‘think locally’ and develop an awareness of where our food comes from. Rising oil prices will make it increasingly difficult to transport food across the globe as we do now through imports and export. But this is not the only reason why we must learn to take a more active role in protecting our food security: over the next 20 years, we will begin to see the drastic effects of climate change on agriculture, world food supply, and areas especially vulnerable to famine.

Shocking changes to our climate mean agricultural zones and patterns will begin to shift dramatically. As a result of increasingly unstable weather conditions globally, the crops that can grow will be more susceptible to infections, new types of pest infestations, and devastation from extreme weather-related events such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wild temperature fluctuations.

This means a very unstable food supply. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) estimates that over 820 million are chronically hungry in the third world,

What You Can Do:

There is no easy solution to this harrowing reality. However, rather than getting lost in the big picture, we must each strive for the small victories we can achieve. The lesson here that we must teach our grandchildren is to take responsibility for our own food security. Traditionally, cities have had to rely on agriculturally productive land beyond their borders, often in far away countries, to provide the food to sustain their populations. Buying local, organic food and following initiatives such as the 100-mile diet is one vital step in adapting to the increased need to ‘live off the land’.

Inhabitants of cities across the world are showing a great deal of foresight, often due to necessity, through the growing trend of urban agriculture. Beginning in the late 1970s, urban agriculture has been the response of urban populations with no food security to reclaim space in their cities to grow vegetables, maintain small crops and rear animals.

Those who practice urban agriculture have been creative and resourceful in their use of space, converting abandoned lots and buildings, strips of green space, and modest backyards into vegetable patches, gardens, and grazing grounds. IN Shanghai and Havanna, over 60% of each city’s food supply is grown within its borders; in Toronto, the figure is under 18%.

Regardless of where you live, urban agriculture is set to become an ever-increasing aspect of the lives of your grandchildren, and teaching them how they can begin to take control of their food supply is a truly vital lesson. The theme of this month’s challenges, therefore, is buying and growing locally to establish our own food security.

Challenges:

With your grandchildren, plan an entire meal that consists entirely of locally grown ingredients (within 100 miles of where you live).

First, select a suitable recipe together.

Next, pick up the ingredients. Visit a farm if you can! Otherwise, local markets and farmers’ markets are usually the best places to buy local produce, meat, and other food items, but most grocery stores will carry a supply of local products.

Prepare the meal together, and enjoy it; you deserve it! You’ll be surprised by the sense of satisfaction that comes from this whole process, and both you and your grandchildren will have a much better sense in the future of where your food comes from, and hopefully use this new understanding to make smart choices next time you are grocery shopping.

Plant vegetables or herbs in a window box, and maintain it with your grandchild/ren.

It might be cold outside, but maintaining a window box is a great introduction to gardening and growing your own food; it is the kind of creative use of space that has made urban agriculture so successful in many cities.

The first step is finding a good place to keep your box. Select an area that receives a good deal of sunlight, which will not be damaged by any spillage when you’re watering your plants.

Second, select an appropriate container. Long containers that span the length of the window are ideal, and the deeper the container the more room there will be for roots to grow; bear in mind, however, that the box is not too heavy when filled with soil and water if it is being mounted on wall brackets or some other support.

You are now ready to begin planting in your window box. Either ask at your local gardening shop for more details, or click here to learn more about planting and maintenance of your window box. Not only will this introduce your grandchild/ren to the idea of urban agriculture, it will also teach them how much dedication and responsibility are needed to take care of a plant – or anything else, for that matter.

Remember: Visit forourgrandchilren.ca and share your stories as you brave these challenges, and find out how others fared.

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