On Climate, Advocacy and Simple School Lunch

On Climate, Advocacy and Simple School Lunch

Across the world this past month, we have been absorbed by the marches and protests led by children and youth, advocating for more action to stop global climate change. Here in Halifax, NS, thousands turned out for the Climate Strike march on Friday, September 27. When we talk about future for our children, there are countless small but significant ways we can all contribute to making the world more habitable. Direct climate action, community advocacy, and simple school lunch are three ways I work through Bite-Sized Kitchen to do what I can to improve the earth in concrete ways.

Here is a small but mighty voice to add to the conversation: that of my 5-year-old, helping pack her own school lunch last week.

Veggies, fruit and sandwich. Lunch can be that simple. Take kids to the store with you and let them choose one vegetable and one fruit to go in the week’s lunches (a different one from the week before!). With perseverance, offering kids both agency and exposure will lead to a wider variety of preference. It seems like a tiny thing, but when our kids describe which colours of tomato they love, that’s helping the climate. Environmental action and awareness can take many forms.

In another vein of climate change combat, I volunteered last season at our older kids’ school and organized planting 40 fruit trees and bushes on the school grounds - we planted pear, grapes, gooseberry, goji berry, blueberry, cranberry, haskap berry, and three kinds of cherries. Last week I toured the staff (some 50 people) around the gardens and explained what all the plants were. Gardening is a small but significant and direct step towards carbon reduction and it’s my hope that these trees we planted in June will grow and thrive for decades. (Cash is helping water the school plants in the cover photo of this post.)

goji berries

goji berries

grapes

grapes

In the Bite-Sized Kitchen, I aim to be waste-free. Most days I tend to fall somewhere between low waste and waste-free. As an alternative to plastic wrap and plastic baggies for food storage, I use abeego beeswax wraps and all kinds of reusable containers. At stores and markets, I use this kind of produce bags. Cooking from scratch is a very big step on the road to waste-free, since if you’re able to purchase ingredients in bulk or in whole form you reduce reliance on packaging. Using leftovers from home cooked meals in lunches the next day also helps avoid wasted food.

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All kids need to have some degree of food literacy and we see a lot more of that in other countries. In many other countries they prioritize food, they prioritize eating, sitting down for meals. In Finland, for example, school lunches are free to all students and actually the healthiest meal those students eat during the day.
— Sara Kirk, Dalhousie University, Halifax

Last month, Ida and I paid a visit to our MP’s office to discuss the need for more flexible parental leave programs for citizens who work part-time. In the past we have taken our kids with us to the ballot box on voting day, and we’ll do so again in a few weeks when Canada heads to the polls. I’ve been part of developing a hot lunch program at our kids’ school, which will be offered for free to all students for 4 weeks starting this month. It will be served family style to avoid any waste. The great American food pioneer Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard (see above image) are advocating - and have been for decades - for progressive school lunch policies (and school gardens) in the US. Closer to home, Jenny Osburn in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley has been working on accessible, nutritious school food programming.

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Just like when we give children agency in the kitchen, when we allow them space and time to help in the garden we give them tools and confidence to handle other aspects of their lives, big and small. Gardening encourages patience and care. It’s active, hands-on, productive work. And the garden and its plants can be linked to history, botany, colour, biology - any subject, really.

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I think that if we can:

1. Aim to pack waste-free school lunches
2. Involve our children in the process
3. Work for waste-free, whole foods hot lunches served in local schools

we are taking a big step towards tackling climate change.

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For lots of ideas and methods on how to pack simple, appealing, nutritious and waste-free kids’ lunches, see these previous posts. I recently taught a hands-on workshop for adults and kids at this local library on school lunch and I’ll be leading more such workshops in the future. Nourish Nova Scotia is a great organization working for healthy schools, and Uplift is a provincial program I’m involved with that works to build healthier environments for children.

I am writing here about my recent activities in order to encourage everyone to talk more and write more about what we are already doing to help cool the earth. Let’s have more conversations about ways we are combatting climate change, and ways we can do even better. This fight is about marching, talking and writing - it’s also about cooking and gardening. And of course, it must be with our kids.

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The best time to plant a blueberry bush is twenty years ago. The second best time is now
— Anonymous