Monday, July 30, 2007

July Local Foods Update

Back in May, I wrote a post about my goal of using more local foods and preparing at least one meal a week with foods that had not travelled far. Two months later, it is much easier to do this and most of our meals are made with foods from our region. Our markets have an abundance of fruits and vegetables and are heading into the peak late summer and fall season. Everyday the media carries a new story about the importance of eating well. Yahoo featured a link last week to a story called Eating like a Mediterranean. (whatever "a Mediterranean" is!) But many people still need help adopting healthy lifestyles.
The hospital I work at has a beautiful setting and good work environment, but the food provided for sale for staff, patients and visitors is appalling, especially for a health care facility. Our cafeteria is operated by a catering company that sells sandwiches, burgers and fries. The tuck shop is run by volunteers and sells ice cream and more candy bars.

Each day I am greeted by these machines and often watch patients buying a soft drink and chips between meals. I guess you cannot keep fresh apples or peaches in a vending machine and they would not bring much revenue for the hospital.

Our regional Cardiac Care Centre is in the other city hospital across town. This summer they are sponsoring a weekly fresh food market in the parking lot, selling local fruit and vegetables. They are hoping to attract people in the neighbourhood as well as staff, visitors and outpatients and provide them with some healthy food choices.

I stopped by last week and even got 15 minutes free parking at the curb. The prices were excellent and the food was top quality. I bought a little of everything (except eggplant) and spent just a few dollars. Promoting a healthy lifestyle is something that should be done on every hospital property. I don't see enough of it where I work.

When we were up north, we had another local foods education. This area of Lake Huron, on the east shore of Manitoulin Island, is the site of a fishery where rainbow trout are stocked and raised in a netted off area of the lake.

Cold Water Fisheries is located in Little Current and we stopped at the factory store and bought a large box of cleaned and vacuum wrapped trout fillets for a very inexpensive $2.25 a pound. Their biggest customer is Costco where the fish is sold at a much higher price. The store employee told me that all the fish was shipped from Manitoulin Island to the Costco warehouse in Toronto, a good 4 hour drive away, and then it was driven back to the Costco outlet in Sudbury and other stores in the province. She said there were no local retail outlets who bought their product directly. Most of the big grocery chains buy and distribute food this way. No wonder the consumer pays a premium price for many items.

I finished the book The Omnivore's Dilemma and recommend it highly to anyone who is interested in understanding how food is produced and marketed in North America. It sure has made me more aware of the impact of my food choices, not only for my health, but for the environment.


  1. I really need to try and focus on buying from local food dealers at least once a week! Although I know winter months would be hard to do!

  2. I admire your being able to stick to this Ruth. I agree that hospitals sometimes don't do enough to promote healthy living. It's sad really.

    What a beautiful photo of the scenery at Little Current. Hope the trout was just delicious!

  3. Anonymous2:51 pm GMT-4

    I have a kitchen full of produce from my friends organic garden atm, especially zucchini (I told him not to plant all those bushes... hehe.)

    I need to start going to the farmer's market here more often, I have a big basket on my bike now so I can't make any more excuses about not being able to carry it.

    The grocery store down the road always has all the locally grown stuff labeled. I try to build my menu around that.

  4. Anonymous4:20 pm GMT-4

    Ruth, you may enjoy Barbara Kingsolver's new book called Animal Vegetable Miracle. My sister read it and just told me about it - it deals with eating healthy with local foods. Our library doesn't have it yet but it's on my list. Interesting post.

  5. Hi Ruth,
    This was a good post and a good reminder about making better choices to take care of ourselves. After everything that's been in the media lately about tainted food, I only wish my garden was a little bigger!

    Thanks for the tip on The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'll be contacting my local library to reserve a copy.

  6. Summertime and the eating is easy. This weekend I ate fresh pies I purchased from the Amish and vegetables from my brother's garden. I'm so used to the inferior produce that I buy in our chain market - I'd forgotten how good a fresh cucumber could taste. Now that's sad.

    Pretty sad, too, that hospitals can't do better than burgers and fries.

  7. I wish hospitals, assistant living, and nursing homes did a better job. I can see some of them are doing a fine job.

    Our local grocery stories are promoting the sale of local and fresh. I like it. Winter months are questionable.

  8. Monarch- This is the time of year to buy local. It would be very difficult to maintain in the winter where you and I live.

    Jayne- The trout is so delicious! We had it tonight and my husband was talking about driving back to get some more. A 12 hour round trip kind of defeats the purpose and ups the cost!

    Jaspenelle- My mom, your nana, used to ride her bike to the farmer's market every week to get fresh produce. She always served seasonal foods and canned and froze food for the winter. (just like your other grandma)

    LauraO- I ended up buying the Kingsolver book. It has recipes in it too and was worth the price. I am such a sucker for buying books, but I love to share them. If the library has a long hold list, I buy from Amazon.

    RuthieJ- You have a big enough property for a large garden. You just need 40 hour days and no sleep to do more than you do!

    Cathy- I am enjoying fresh cherry tomatoes from my garden and they are unbelievably good. Amish pies...yum. There is no better dessert than pie.

  9. Mary- You just popped a comment in ahead of mine. Our local nursing homes get just over $5 a day per resident for food. That is appalling. And the meals reflect that poor investment. Unfortunately, people don't always buy healthy food that is offered for sale. So the popular junk makes the menu.


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