January 11, 2018

Increasing Food Security

Winter squash keeps for many weeks in a cool, dry place, like my pantry. We harvested these in October.

A study done in 2010 showed that only about 13% of food dollars Nova Scotians spend end up in the pockets of local producers. The average distance traveled for an item of food here is almost 4000km. Communities suffer social, economic and environmental damage from the externalities of this global food distribution system.

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect is how fragile this system is in the event of natural disasters, spikes in energy prices, or climate change. What exactly is the plan if the industrial food distribution system were ever to shut down?

How many of us would be prepared for such an event, even if only temporary?

One can be better prepared with a good set of food production and preservation skills. And since it is more effective to work together in mutual support, it is important for local communities to be more food secure for the benefit of all.

That means supporting local farmers and producers over those thousands of kilometres away. I have nothing against distant farmers, but resilience is greatest in areas with strong local food production and consumption patterns.

Linda and I are a long way from being food self-sufficient, and like most of our neighbours, we rely  on imported foods for part of our diet. If we ever had to fend for ourselves, we might not be the first to die, but longer term survival would be a challenge.

Because of that possible precarious predicament (that makes my stomach growl), we are always changing our eating habits to try to align with a less damaging, more resilient diet. That means fewer bananas (4500 food kilometres), and more squash from our garden (4 meters). Fewer oranges (6300 km), and more garden kale (4 meters).

We bake our squash, then enjoy the stored summer sun in smoothies, soup, and on its own.
The larger seeds are excellent baked. We like ours natural, without oil or salt.

There is always more that can be done. The following are a few suggestions as to what you can do to increase food security in your house and community.

- Grow a garden.

- Support your local farmers’ market.

- Choose local produce when it’s in season at your usual shopping places. Try maintaining a seasonal diet year round, like we used to before fossil fuels and advertising created a desire to have every food available all the time (and damn the consequences).

- Learn and share food preservation techniques, like canning, drying, freezing, pickling, and fermenting. Many community kitchens offer low cost classes.

- Avoid buying produce that has been flown in. Hothouse tomatoes, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, and asparagus are most frequently shipped by air.

- Encourage businesses and governments to adopt policies favouring locally grown, organic, and sustainably harvested foods that are minimally processed.

That all sounds like a good excuse for a larger garden in 2018, as well as a healthy dose of activism. Not to mention a whole lot of invigorating, life-affirming work in the soil and the kitchen.

As much as possible, food security should start at home, then be supplemented by foods that are as local as possible. Foods eaten will be fresher and more nutritious, and will help reduce the harmful effects of inefficient systems of food trade and distribution.


  1. Anonymous1/12/2018

    Hi Gregg and Linda! I agree with you. We have a similar situation here in Sweden, I read today that about half the food sold here is imported.
    I wonder if you know the name of the sort of squash you're growing ? I'd really like to try growing some this year (I'm in hardiness zone 5b).

    1. We are not entirely sure what variety of squash this is, but is most likely a type of C. maxima, which includes Buttercup, Kabocha, and Hubbard.

      Last year was the first year we grew winter squash. I got the seeds from a squash I bought at the grocery store. It was grown locally, so I thought the seeds would work in our garden. And they did. Nicely.

      We are also in a 5a/6b hardiness zone. Our squash grew very well, and we harvested about a dozen beautiful 2 kilo specimens. They were fun to grow, and the bees love the flowers (which only open for one day).

  2. Anonymous1/12/2018

    First, I love that you used seeds from a store bought squash to grow more in your garden, bravo! And this line really struck me: "we are always changing our eating habits to try to align with a less damaging, more resilient diet." Wouldn't it be grand if this were humankind's motto for eating? -Erin

  3. What a great idea to cook the seeds without oil or salt - almost too simple for my mind that loves to complicate things! We're trying not to use oil in cooking so I've been tossing the seeds. I've got a butternut squash for tomorrow - I'm going to try that. Thanks!


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