Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for me. In the lush colours, stormy skies and rich harvests, I see both a celebration of life and a reminder of the need to be thankful for our health and for the food we so often take for granted. Thanksgiving brings families together around glistening turkey and fragrant pumpkin, buttered corn and sweet cranberry; it’s a sensual delight, a beautiful breathing space between the subtle melancholy of late summer and the early days of iron winter.
I love good food (I’ve made that clear on previous blogs) but for me, Thanksgiving is about being outside, awed by the grand spectacle of sugar maples on fire and the melodioussusurration of leaves all around me. I make it a regular habit to be actively and consciously grateful for my life, but at this time of year, in this stunning country, gratitude comes without effort.
When I was a child we celebrated the coming of autumn with a harvest festival. We would bring fruits and vegetables and whatever food our parents could spare. It would form the focal point of a church ceremony, and then it was distributed to those who needed it. I liked the incongruity of seeing mucky potatoes and slightly rank cabbages, tins of Heinz beans and packets of pasta stacked in an unwieldy pile in front of the austere church altar of my childhood faith. And then it was over, and we would start to look forward to Christmas. It didn’t register on my childhood radar that for the folks who would be receiving this donated food, finding dinner could be a relentless year-long struggle, and finding healthy fresh food even harder.
It registers loud and clear now. Food insecurity is the term used to describe the state some of us – particularly Aboriginal children – find ourselves in when money is so short that regular satisfying and healthy meals are a dream that other people live. Canadian Feed the Children (www.canadianfeedthechildren.ca) states that one in four Aboriginal children lives in poverty, and they are disproportionately represented as foodbank users and victims of nutritional deficiencies and diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity. The Toronto Star also reported in 2014 (Aug 27) that child poverty in Toronto was at “epidemic proportions”. The link between poverty and food insecurity is well documented, as is the link between food insecurity and obesity, depression and other health problems*. This appals me. It leaves me stunned and helpless. What can I do? What can anyone do?
This year, my Thanksgiving started with a walk in Ashbridges Bay, where I revelled in the play of sun and wind on the trees, and looked for late migrating birds and butterflies. I came across a community garden – the Beach Community Edible Garden, in fact. It’s a volunteer-run project that provides fresh, organic food to the Glen Rhodes foodbank at Gerrard and Coxwell. And not just at Thanksgiving. It’s something I can help with. It’s something to be thankful for.
R. Sian Owen PT