So, this post is a little bit different from the other posts so far. Although I’ve classified it as a “food road trip” this road trip hasn’t really happened yet, but I’m encouraging all of you to make the trip, if you can.
What am I talking about? Well, this Sunday, from 11am-2pm, Bonnyman House Tearoom in Tatamagouche will be hosting the village’s 2nd annual IncrEdible Community Picnic. It’s an initiative sponsored in part through Select Nova Scotia, the province’s “buy local” campaigner, to encourage communities to get together, eat local food, and raise funds for local initiatives. In Tatamagouche’s case, the IncrEdible Picnic is raising funds for the Tatamagouche Elementary School and the village’s North Colchester Regional High School breakfast programs. So those are three equally awesome reasons to get out to Tatamagouche this Sunday: 1)support local, vibrant community initiatives, 2)eat fantastic, locally sourced food from locally-owned business owners, and 3)lend your practical support to children’s healthy food programs in schools.
I’ve been looking forward to this picnic for a month now because I’m all for getting behind these 3 causes. And yet, I’m left wondering: is it enough?
What I mean is this: Angus Bonnyman, the owner of Bonnyman House Tearoom and the man behind Tata’s IncrEdible Picnic told me the reason why the picnic was put on last year was because both school’s were finding it difficult to raise the money it takes to provide these breakfast programs (the elementary school’s budget is $30 a day to feed 90 kids). Which is frightening, in my mind, that the school was having trouble finding the funds to continue running the program. So, thankfully, the IncrEdible Picnic was started.
However, neither the picnic nor the breakfast programs really get at the heart of why there are 90 elementary aged children in and around the area of Tatamagouche who need to use the breakfast program. Not like this is something shameful for them–I don’t believe it is or even should be. Through my time volunteering at other school breakfast programs, I’ve witnessed that in a lot of ways, breakfast programs are just one more way of fostering community within children’s’ lives, which is fantastic. The children have a chance to eat healthy food and interact with each other in a semi-structured environment, and depending on the way the breakfast programs are run, they also get a chance to interact with other adults in their community, or perhaps the children themselves get to take on roles of responsibility. In all these cases, these programs do more than fill bellies–they also help children learn how to socialize with each other and with their wider community, and they help children learn about being responsible to one another. But it continues to worry me about why Tatamagouche needs to have a children’s breakfast program to ensure that children are getting healthy breakfasts, or why Tatamagouche needs to have a food bank. Both of these services are stop-gaps for deeper issues that need to be addressed in our communities.
Since I’ve arrived in this area of the province, it really has been touted as the province’s “little slice of heaven” where people are happy and healthy and living in a strong, vibrant small community. But not everyone is living on the same level of wealth or emotional or physical health. And maybe you’d say “well, that’s life,” but as a Christian, I firmly believe that this world can be different. I believe in a world where there is enough food for all–I believe in a world where resources are shared, where people do not need to choose between feeding their children and paying their rent. And this isn’t just some pie in the sky dream–I believe God calls me to be an active part of making this belief a reality.
So how do we address issues of poverty, particularly in rural Nova Scotia, beyond providing band-aid solutions?
Addition: So, my mind has been pre-occupied with these thoughts for a good chunk of the day (can you tell I am preaching on this on Sunday??), and in my research about food security in Nova Scotia, I came across this workbook which, while some of the links were frustratingly slow, seemed to be a good resource for working through questions about “what is food security/insecurity?” and “what can we do about our concerns?”. Just putting it out there for other folks to use and peruse…