Tag Archives: food

The poverty diet; charity and neighbours part II

box-sceme-001-940x705In all traditional cultures food is at the centre of sharing with family and friends. People sit around a table and talk together while food is laid out and passed around. The whole notion of food and sharing so much part of Sikh culture that the Gujarati Temples have huge kitchens were everyone gets together and make curry and rise and roll out chippati’s together.

The agape meal isn’t so much part of everyday Christian practice these days but many churches do have bring and share meals and Lentern soup gatherings.

Eating together as a family is so important and I am sure I read studies in the past that said families who eat together (without the TV) tend to eat better food.

The difficulty of overcoming the poverty diet, it seems to me, isn’t just about lack of money to buy good quality food, it’s about lack of culture. It’ is much easier and actually cheaper for a lot of people to pool resources and eat good food than for a lot of individual people to buy enough for one. We need to build communities again.

I love the idea of Guerilla Gardening where people get together and plant fruit and veg that anyone can use. This was highlighted by Hugh Fernley Whittingstall of River Cottage and he also managed to bring a community together to run a small garden and homestead which included pigs.

There’s a lot of vacant land around cities which just attracted trash and rats. Helping people get together to grow good food has got to be a better use for the land. Getting communities and families to work together could mean the old lady who doesn’t eat any more can get visited and fed. It could mean the single mum stuck in her horrible flat all day with her little ones, can get out and do something with her children and be supported.

Shared gardens could help some of this too. It could mean that the able bodied people grow the food while the old lady and the local cripple (that’ll be me) can shell peas and wash veg and someone a little more capable can cook and maybe can the food.

People on benefits can quickly loose their sense of self respect and dignity. This is helped by a hostile media and just the general nastiness of other people. I am sure many people who can’t find work right now, or who have been too sick to work (especially with mental health problems) should be encouraged to grow food, and keep animals in a community setting without there being any threat to their benefits. In fact it could be a good way to help people feel they are earning a wage rather than merely picking up dole.

All this needs to be done at local level, through parishes or local community centres. Religious orders would be ideal for setting up this kind of work. Subsidiarity works well if only it was tried.

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The poverty diet, charity and neighbours.

This article on how chronically sick people (specifically those with ME in this case) find themselves poor and therefore relying on cheap or free food, making them sicker for longer, opens a can of questions.

u8_thin-girl-fat-girlFirst of all, we know from other studies and just knowing people, that the poverty diet is part of the everyday life of a lot of people regardless of their health when they became poor. The rise in rickets, malnutrition and even the return of scurvy to Britain is surely a sign that we are getting it badly wrong. The exponential rise in people having type 2 diabetes is surely linked with the poverty diet.

Now food must be handed out to the poor from Government distribution systems such as food banks, so that people don’t starve. We have a food bank opening up just up the road where my oldest daughter will volunteer.  There is no famine, no war, no massive shift in the population and yet many people can’t or don’t eat healthy well balanced food, and food prices are getting very high indeed.

It’s not just because people are poor. A lot of the problem is that food quality is so bad, and cheap food is often barely food at all.  We have poisoned the soil and our fruit an veg have sucked up pesticides for so long that rinsing them under the tap or peeling them is pointless. We’ve known for years that industrially farmed meat is bad for animals and for those who eat them, but it’s still more expensive and more difficult to find free range meat and organic meat is out of most people’s regular price range.

Being fat is not the biggest problem we face. Being sick because we can’t get the right minerals and vitamins to keep us from being very ill is the problem. The poverty diet becomes a vicious circle. You can’t eat healthy food, so you either stay sick, get worse or become sick; then you are too sick to earn more money, or to keep your job, so you stay on the poverty diet. Worse still, being ill can prevent a person being able to cook properly and so getting easy food becomes a habit.

Poor diet has been implicated in the massive rise in depression. The quick fix approach to this serious disease is to hand out prescriptions of antidepressants all of which have the side effect of weight gain. In women poor diet leads to hormonal imbalances which are always treated with the sledgehammer of chemical contraception, with the side effect of weight gain.

Then there are those of us on loads of steroids and yes, you guessed it, weight gain is a major side effect.

We’ve known for years that starvation diets and starvation in “real” situations has a negative effect on metabolism and we know that poor quality food effects both physical and mental health but still starvation diets are advertised as a good idea, and it’s only recently that any move to improve the quality of hospital food has happened.

It has also been well known for a long time that starvation effects metabolism and so people who have been starved often end up heavier once they can eat a normal amount because their metabolism is used to conserving energy. Couple this with the rise in diseases like Dysautonomia and ME which effect metabolism and the problem is made worse. The question remains unanswered (unresearched thanks to the way food is distributed by very big and powerful business) on whether diet is at the root of the exponential rise in autoimmune diseases. It has been noted that in Asian and African countries autoimmune disease is rare, but in Asian and African populations living in the West it’s on the rise at a shocking rate.

gkc1The BBC are repeating the interesting mini series documentary “The Men Who Made us Fat” alongside a new doc “The Men Who Made us Thin”. Obviously it’s the BBC so treat with caution but the questions raised are valid.

Now that the cause for dear ol’G.K.C. is finally moving ahead perhaps we can get ourselves a patron saint of fat people. There is a story that a lady approached him rather crossly during the war and demanded to know why he wasn’t out at the front.

“Madam,” responded GK, “If you walk to the side you will see that I am.”

Ronan cooks his first meal.

Ronan wants to be a baker. He can already bake some pretty good cakes and I have to confess his gluten free productions are better than mine ever were. He is definitely the lead gluten free chef in our house. He has been asking for a while to be allowed a night when he cooks.

P1020718Iona is the cook now. I can’t stand up long enough, or remain safe, to cook a meal any longer. Ronan has asked for Wednesdays to be his night. He cooked his first full meal for five. He made sausages, potatoes and beans. I didn’t help at all. I only went in to the kitchen now and then and made suggestions. He did all the work.

This was more impromptu than planned, but I think we could do some menu planning and he can have a go, choosing his own recipes. His knife control is pretty good – needs some work – but good enough.

He can learn menu planning, budgeting and nutrition  as we go along.

This is a very important skill. It’s one Iona has learned as she went along and one that stands Alex and Anna (his wife) in good stead now that they are making a home for themselves.

It’s sadly rare these days that youngsters can cook, and shamefully more studies are showing that children don’t even know what basic foodstuff is. Learning about food and cooking has to be one of the most important life skills we can offer our children.  They love it.

Food is Love (and so is home education).

 I love my children. That should be normal for a mum, although I know only too well that isn’t always the case.

I don’t love them in a sloppy sentimental way; frankly that’s useless love. I love them even when it’s hard going and that often means when they are standing facing the front door or sitting on the stairs. That is love because although it means I am making them do something they don’t like, that they will learn from it, the easy way. If I don’t teach them how to behave they will find out the hard way in the big world.

It’s the same with food. I love my children enough to make sure they eat properly.  So yes, we have those traditional conversations along the lines of “If you don’t eat your greens you won’t get pudding.”

We are on a tight budget (like most one income households in the UK) so food does eat the budget so to speak, but I still try and make sure the children are eating good food and not junk. Anyway I am beginning to think junk costs more.

I have mentioned that Iona is doing THIS COURSE WITH THE OPEN UNI on Human Nutrition. It’s all very technical and has got her wondering around the house talking about “free radicals” and the best places to find vitamin B12, but it has also got her thinking more about food and how we eat and share it.

She told me today to get watching These Vids on Youtube wherein Jamie Oliver a Chef from the UK heads off to Huntington West Virginia to try and start a food revolution, much like the one he started in schools here. Now, I have to admit I have never been much of a fan of Mr Oliver, but these four programmes have given me a new respect for the man. But even more so, these programmes have really shocked me and left me gutted for some of the families and children in the programme. And knowing that things are only a short few steps behind on the slope over here, it’s just scary.

Huntington was chosen for Jamie’s revolution because it came top in some Government figures for deaths due to obesity.  Now this is a sensitive thing to do. Going somewhere because the people are eating themselves to death and trying to change things needs to be handled with some sensitivity, but also with realism. To be fair I do think Jamie tried that approach. He certainly won over one family who  ate rubbish until he helped them find a better way.

But I was absolutely blown away by the schools. I can’t imagine that many parents choose to homeschool because state schools are pushing the most horrible junk down their children’s throats, but if there are parents doing so for that reason, well, they are right.

Now, I let my kids eat junk now and then. But the whole diet in these schools and the extended community was the kind of food we would eat once in a while and some of it is stuff I would never feed my children. 

Jamie asked a class of 6 yr olds (grade 1. year 2) about basic fruit and veg. Not one child recognised even a potato!

I did a quick impromtu lesson with my children. I sent the three younger ones off in search of a potato. carrot, tomato, banana, pear and something else can’t remember. The three of them, aged 7, 5 and 3, all managed to come back with the correct items with no help and then sat and watched some of the programme while eating the pear, banana and carrot.

Meanwhile on the screen they watched as children their age and older were allowed to throw away most of the their dinner, no questions asked. This was both the yukky stuff and the stuff Jamie introduced against massive opposition into the school. 

This school had 400 pupils so it’s about the same size as most of the primary schools over here. When I worked in such schools it was normal for adults, teachers, assistants and lunch time supervisors to be with the children while they ate to ensure the children were eating properly and help them with cutlery. In fact it was a bone of contention that even hit the press that too many children come to school without proper table manners and that the schools are having to teach this. Nevertheless the idea that a load of very young children should be left to eat food without proper adult attention was not even considered.

The school sfaff seemed surprised when Jamie said that children wouldn’t be allowed to throw food away like that back home. The waste was utterly shocking and then they have the nerve to complain about school food budgets! Not that I blamed the children. The school served breakfast; get this: Pizza, sugar packed flavoured milk with a cereal covered in sugar loaded flavoured milk. Can you imagine giving that to your children?

Things happen in these programme’s that begger belief. The conversation about children in the primary (elementary) school using cutlery was …I was astonished. They couldn’t understand why Jamie wanted the children to use a knife and fork!! The grumpy woman even demanded proof that children in UK primary schools do use knives and forks!  Of course they do!

Things did begin to change, when even the school Principle (who I didn’t rate) got involved in helping the children learn what to eat and how to eat. But the battle will be longer and harder because so many of those children have never been taught how to eat good food around a table where there are loving adult role models. The added problem that they never get to use cutlery properly just makes the whole thing harder than it need be.

How we feed our families is, I truly believe,  a sign of how we love them. Having enough care to cook good nutricous food so our children can grow,  learn and be as healthy as possible is what we are supposed to do.  Part of that is teaching the children how to cook.  Otherwise the bad habits set in and it effects generations. We need to say no to the children at times and that’s just the way it is.

The family Jamie went to work with were lovely, but they ate unbelievable rubbish. The mum was horrified when she realised what she was doing and I think she did want to change, but it is a tough battle to change the habits of a lifetime. The fact that their son just heading to be 13 was already obese and on the verge of diabetes shocked the family-hopefully enough to help them really make the change.  I did get the impression, though I can’t be sure, that the adults really had not realised how much rubbish was in the food they were all eating. Somehow they had gone through school and never come across anything about nutricion.

They are members of a church where the Pastor is so tired of members of his congreation dropping dead that he now preaches about eating properly. Good for him, but how sad.

Jamie got the parents from the elementary school and showed them in no uncertain terms what was being fed to their children and they all said they didn’t want that. It’s a good start. I think he might have made better headway if he had started with the parents in the first place- over riding the rights and duties of parents is never a good plan and schools already do far too much of that.

In the High School he went to he got a lot more support from the kitchen team. That must have made things easier. He also put together a team of young people from the school and taught them to cook, and is setting them up as food ambassadors. The children had their own very serious reasons for wanting to be part of this. One girl had lost her dad when she was 13 because his obesity killed him. She had recently lost an uncle the same way and another girl was morbidly obese herself and discovered she had about 7 years left to live. She is just  a teenage girl and food is killing her.

While Jamie is campaigning in schools first I think it’s the churches and parent groups that need the attention. If parents are encouraged to take back their role, rights and responsibilites they will see that their children need to eat well. Then the parents can demand the schools change the food and maybe even get some parents in the schools to help make sure the children know how to sit properly and eat properly.

From there parents can start to ensure their children grow up learning how to prepare and cook good food properly.

There is an unhealthy view that learning to cook isn’t acedemic enough and so doesn’t matter that much. Yet when we look at a mother feeding boxed pizza and fries to her children all the time so that they are already obese before they hit their teen years, we surely have to rethink that. If those children live long enough to have children of their own (and it’s a big if) then how will they break the cycle without education?

We need our children to know about food, to prepare it well and to eat it properly. It means saying no to children sometimes and making them eat green beans and broccoli. That is love.

Pennywise Life. Distributismish

5312I said I would post some recipes on how we are trying to save money this year. So here are some of our scrimping schemes and a couple of recipes.

I don’t suppose many of my penny pinching ideas are all that new to most of you. We are trying to cut back on the extraordinaryly high electricity and gass bill. I am back to not putting the central heating on and keeping the children in one room as much as possible. If other families are coming over I put it on. But we wear more jumpers and Josh gets the coal fire lit early so we get some good heat downstairs.

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My New Slow Cooker Has Arrived!

I loved my slow cooker and then a couple of weeks ago it died. Crying 

Well I just need a slow cooker, so I asked Al if I could have one for my birthday. Well, I’m sorry folk but my birthday isn’t for another couple of weeks and I REALLY need a slow cooker. So I ordered one and it arrived today.

I use it a lot in the Autumn and winter for a number of things. It makes a lot of chutney and mince meat for the Christmas jars.

It is my Wednesday Saver. We have homeschool group on a Wednesday morning and then everyone comes back here for lunch and then I teach Sign Language after that. By the time that day is over I am shattered and certainly wouldn’t be up to cooking dinner for everyone. By having the slow cooker set up in the morning before we go out there is a lovely meal ready for everyone and as Wednesday night is Scout night the older ones can grab a plateful before they have to leave the house.

I use the slow cooker for big family gatherings and borrow a couple of others so a large gathering can have a hot meal.

I don’t know who invented the thing but GOD BLESS HIM!

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Food is Love

 Broccoli Cherries I was talking to a friend the other day about feeding our children. Like me she often has other people’s children in her house to feed. It can be difficult when the children we are taking care of are not used to proper food or sitting at the table with a knife and fork.

I believe the old cliche that food is love. It’s not just what we feed our children, although a proper balanced diet is important, it is also HOW we do it. My friend told me of quite a sick child she has at her house who only seems to eat fruit and veg when she has him. Despite being so ill- or possibly partly because of it- he is allowed to live on sweets and cakes at home, so much so he has had to have teeth removed.

Food is often a real discipline problem with little children. I think their taste buds change and develop around the age of 3 and all the lovely veggies and fruit they had happily eaten until then become suddenly yukky and unbearable. Avila is just reaching this point, where things she has always eaten such as peas, strawberries even her beloved grapes are less appealing or downright unappealing. Grape 2 It means we have to train her to eat that stuff, while she finds eating cakes, chocolate etc all too easy.

We are going through the battle with Ronan too but as he is nearly 5 now, things are a little easier-mainly because he knows there is little point in arguing, no veg=no desert. Simple. The sight of a chocolate cake coming to the table that she would have to watch the rest of us eat can make Avila eat broccoli with alacrity.

Table manners are important too. Children need to be able to sit properly at the table for the whole meal, learn to use cutlery properly and to take turns in conversation. It is an important skill for children to be able to do this especially for family events where no parents wants to inflict their badly socialised children on others. Now I am not saying I expect a 2 yr old to sit sweetly through a long drawn out ‘grown ups’ meal out without so much as fidget; adults need to be reasonable about what children can do-but the child at that age should be learning to sit at the table.

The best way children learn all this is through being part of the family meal time. It is very important in our family to have the evening family meal together. When Alistair and I both worked shifts it was not possible to do this every day, but even then we made sure it happened at least once or twice a week. Now I am at home and Al works normal hours we have nearly every evening and we have a proper Sunday lunch together.

Back in the days when I worked at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Unit (and Alistair was my boss) the ‘powers-that-be’ decided that nursing staff should not be sitting down and eating with the children. They had the bizarre idea that the children should sit at the tables and we would just hover  over them! I was asked to write an “academic” response to the order-which I did, complete with references to the research that showed how adults role model behaviour for children and how those units and foster homes that had staff sit and eat with the children had better overall outcomes and therapeutic relationships. The ‘powers-that-be’ backed off for a little while. While I expected to find research that backed up the common sense notion that adults and children eating together was good for mealtime behaviour and ensuring balanced diet, I must admit back then I was surprised to find that in children’s foster homes the staff eating with the children actually helped overall behaviour.

It is important to me that the children learn how to cook. Now I confess I have failed with Josh, God bless him, but he’s just a liability in the kitchen-but he does make a lovely cup of tea or coffee. Alex and Iona are good cooks and part of Iona’s homeschool time is spent teaching Ronan and Avila to cook.

They also get to help in the kitchen when I am cooking at times.

And for those of you who are wondering when I am going to mention the deeply significant theological aspects of this; quails, manna the Holy Eucharist…well, come on, how long do you want this post to be? Winky 2