Best damn burger in the Valley

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eating Together! Food, Family and our Community.

So I gave a speech last night at a Chamber of Commerce Event in Vernon. It was only to a small group of folks, but I really took the time to analyze my thoughts about the topic I decided to talk about.
Thanks to my co-worker Nikki, it is much more readable, with my atrocious grammer fixed up!

Eating Together! Food, Families, and our Community

I am, first and foremost, a community participant, food advocate, Tweeting and Facebook HOUND. I have a regular little radio show on 107.5 Kiss FM every Sunday morning called ‘Food for Thought’ and I work with many other community-minded foodie folk across the Okanagan trying to bring awareness and change to how we prepare and eat food together.

In the past I have had the pleasure of working as a kitchen manager with Nature’s Fare Markets, a farm laborer with Friesen’s Country Thyme Gardens and Zelaney Farms and a food server in restaurants such as Hubert’s in Lumby and Paradise Camp on the back side of Silver Star Mountain Ski Resort. All these positions have given me a unique view into how food has shaped our community.

My current full time gig is working as the marketing coordinator for Rancho Vignola Nuts and Dried Fruit in Armstrong. I have had this remarkably satisfying job now for the past 2 years and am very thankful for the opportunities it has allowed me.

Rancho Vignola is a dried fruit and nut distribution company that selectively sources fresh nuts and premium dried fruit from growers and distributors in Canada and abroad. These products are only purchased and distributed during the current year of harvesting. This makes for products that are noticeably fresher and more shelf-stable than the ones available in the grocery store.

On average, eating a meal at home with our families is not an everyday practice. It is difficult, with meetings and our children’s extracurricular activities, to be able to sit down together and enjoy a meal. Approximately 1/3 to 1/4 of Canadian families seldom or irregularly eat together in any given week.

However, I don’t believe many families would choose this separation. We need to be shown how to prepare food together. We need to discuss how even the youngest of our family members can be a part of building a meal.
You share your day, you share your knowledge, and most importantly, you share your time by working together to prepare, eat and clean up after a meal.

Even if it only happens successfully once a week, or it happens at breakfast rather than dinner, having children and teens participating in the preparation of meals will most definitely encourage healthier habits once children grow and live on their own.

Our need to eat has not changed for us as a species, but certainly the choices of what we eat have. We feel much more pressure to eat for the sake of schedules rather than our actual hunger and convenience foods have certainly become a huge commodity market because of this trend.
Though eating is a basic necessity, cooking or preparing food is not! With the amount of instant food marketed to us today at bargain barrel, discount prices, we can easily choose to not prepare meals at all.

However, our health and the well-being of our children is at stake when making such choices. I have come to the realization that teaching parents to prepare meals is one thing, but our resources may be better spent teaching our children. Encouraging discussions about where our food comes from and how it is grown in schools is going to prepare our children strongly for the pressures of eating healthy as adults. Math, science and social skills, interaction, sharing, and basic manners are all a part of preparing and eating food together.

Community participation and the growth of community around the topic of food can help to facilitate this knowledge in children. Whether it’s having neighborhood potlucks, sharing your favorite home-baked goods at bake sales, or sharing recipes with friends and family, these actions show our children the power that food has for bringing people together.

Rancho Vignola encourages alternative buying or bulk buying opportunities once or maybe a few times a year. This means getting friends and family together to coordinate an order large enough that those involved have stocked pantries! Many folks that buy from us, share stories about how they have potlucks and events to bring people together for putting in their yearly fall order. Generations of families purchase together from Rancho Vignola, building relationships with each other that many of us take for granted.

Purchasing products that can be stored for up to a year in our houses is not a new concept. But today in the age of instant satisfaction, purchasing our food for the day or the week is a more practiced alternative. Storing semi-perishable food in cold storage, refrigerators, or freezers encourages people to have on hand nutritious ingredients year round.

Operating on the principle that ‘food is community’ is part of what has made Rancho Vignola successful. From the families who grow the food to the families who sit together and share it, food creates a human bond.
Sharing food has been a powerful marketing tool for the company, and one that is universally needed and accepted.

The vibrancy that exists in our food culture here in the Okanagan is unique. We have a wonderful growing season here and many farmers and gardeners. We have successful and vivacious farmers markets that provide us with not only food, but culture, music, and art, encouraging our friends and neighbors to make an income off of providing us with goods we want and love.

We have community volunteers that work long and hard to provide us with community gardens, community kitchens, and ‘Good Food Box’ programs where we can share knowledge, develop ideas, and eat healthy food at little to no cost! Supporting these initiatives is the key to keeping them. Knowing about them... is a start!

In the United States and Great Britain, Jamie Oliver has pounded the pavement and bureaucratic brains trying to get people to see how what we feed ourselves and our families affects our ability to live healthy, balanced lifestyles. I feel he has done a fantastic job of making the general public aware of this problem. But it is up to us in our community to try to encourage change here.

The Slow Food movement, sustainability, 100 mile diet, food security... these are all words and statements that are hot on the lips of foodies today. All these statements are pointing towards bringing people together over the issue of food - talking about it, thinking about it, considering the pros and cons of your next meal!

Though this might not be exactly what some of you want to think about on a regular basis, thinking about it now and sharing your knowledge with your family, friends, and coworkers is going to encourage a better, healthier aging process with less illness, less depression, and more energy to truly live your passions. More energy to participate in this lively, bright community we call home.

Here are some really good links I wish to share:

Project CHEF: Cook Healthy Edible Food is an experiential, curriculum-based school program aimed at children in grades four and five that teaches students about healthy food: where it comes from, what it tastes like, how to prepare it and how to enjoy sharing it around a table.
A site to help families build personalized meal plans based loosely on what is in season in their region. It’s not a perfect match to region yet, but it’s close and the recipes are mostly easy and fast.
This website is really a ‘one stop shop’ for information about what is happening food-wise in our community. Here is where you find out about programs such as The Good Food Box, community gardens, and community kitchen initiatives. Gleaning projects are also posted regularly on this website. If you have a local company that sells food or you are a food producer, you can add your company to the ‘Local Food Directory/Map’
@RanchoVignola also me tweeting for Rancho. is our Facebook page (Please ‘like’ us!)

@jaymemckillop is my Twitter handle.
Local First radio! Supports many great projects in our community and is a huge supporter of the farmers market.