Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

June 23, 2014

No, it's not your imagination. Food does cost more. Even pet food brings a "my gosh!" to shoppers' lips. TD-Canada Trust economists predict our food bill will rise eight per cent this year.

Utility bills, no matter how much one tries to cut down, climb. And were you sitting down when you opened your city tax bill? If you live in one of the areas where you really got hit, you wonder "How am I going to handle this?"

Calls to City Hall and utility companies can at times result in adjustments or maybe "reasons why" the bills took the leap they did.

So we are left with something we hope to have a bit of control over. Food.

Confession. I love to wheel into a drive-through once a day and get a tea. Yes, it is $2. I thought of it as a treat. Take that $2 and multiply it by 365 and I got $730. No more tea stops.

It can push someone into paralyzing fear when they realize they already live close to the bone, yet bills in the mailbox keep climbing without end.

Like thousands of others, I sat down with pencil and notepad and tried to figure out where to cut back. Thermostat down, light on in one room only, pulling out the plugs of unused appliances.

One's mind rolls back to food. Pope Francis' diet runs to the simple but nourishing side of the menu ⁷ baked skinless chicken, salad, fruit, glass of inexpensive wine.

His food selection may be simple, but it satisfies nutritionally. The pope chastises us about waste ⁷ the rotting lettuce, moldy cheese, stale bread. All this spoiled food when so many go hungry.

So now bread and meat go in the freezer. Salad greens, fresh veggies are washed, dried and tucked in plastic bags in the crisper.

One rule I must follow is buy only what I need ⁷ three bananas instead of a whole hand, several of which would have ended up in the compost.

It's hard to eat well and cheaply. It is too easy to say "What the heck!" slop in some instant noodles and call it dinner. One strategy I have now is to hard boil a dozen eggs. Dip them in an ice cold pan of water so the egg parts from the shell. Into the fridge they go. Two or three can be cut up later with mayonnaise, chopped green onion and black pepper for a toasted sandwich dinner.

Dashing to work in the morning? Grab two icy cold eggs and an apple, and it's lunch. Those inexpensive, protein-laden eggs save me from poor nutrition and wasted dollars.

THE HUNGER FIGHT

People caught in a variety of situations face the hunger fight. I'll never forget listening to a single father tell a radio reporter about how hard it is for him come summer time.

His school-aged children are part of their schools' breakfast and lunch programs. Once July and August hit, Dad has to come up with money for the extra food. He explained how embarrassed he is to have to turn to the food bank for food for his children during those two months.

Pope Francis underlined the importance of food when he presided over the launching of a campaign by Caritas Internationalis against global hunger in December.

He called us to "become more conscious in our food choices, which often lead to waste and a poor use of the resources available to us. It is also a reminder to stop thinking that our daily actions do not have an impact on the lives of those who suffer from hunger first-hand."

FEEDING THE POOR

Those with homes and the will to cultivate can turn as much of the land as they want into vegetable plots, perennials like asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, berry bushes.

At least two activist groups just might be able to help.

Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) does just that ⁷ these walk-their-talk people pluck fruit and berries that would otherwise go to waste. They harvest, process and preserve fruit growing in city back yards.

A quarter of the fruit goes to the homeowner, a quarter to charity, a quarter to fruit pickers and a quarter to OFRE for processing. Interested? Call 780-433-2235 or email: info@operationfruitrescue.prg.

Or On Borrowed Ground might fit your needs. You can scout them out at www.onborrowedground.com.. Basically, they borrow city gardens and transform them into intensive vegetable plots.

Food security is essential, not only for our physical health, but our mental well-being too.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)