Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Help me tell the government that we need @EatRightOntario

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Last week I received some upsetting news: EatRight Ontario is shutting down at the end of March due to a loss of government funding. This is sad news for the dietitians who currently work there who will be losing their jobs, for dietitians across the country who use their resources, and not least of all, for Ontarians who will lose free remote access to the services of Registered Dietitians.

I was still mulling over how to approach this on the blog when I attended a webinar today. It was hosted by Food Secure Canada and was about effective lobbying for food system transformation. As the Members of Parliament were talking about how important it is to copy your local representatives on letters to Minsters I realized that this was just what I needed to do about ERO. I didn’t want to have a big pointless bitchfest on here. I wanted to do something with the potential to make a real difference. My solution: I decided to write a letter to Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care (the department responsible for the now withdrawn funding for ERO) and to cc my local MPP so they’re aware of the huge loss that the termination of this service is going to have on Ontarians and Canadians. I thought that I would share my letter with you so that you can copy and paste it, make it your own if you want, and send it to your MPP and Dr Hoskins. After all, if we don’t let our representatives know what our concerns are, how can be expect them to effectively represent us?

Dear Dr. Hoskins,

It has recently come to my attention that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will no longer be providing funding for EatRight Ontario. As you are aware, ERO is a provider of evidence-based nutrition resources and tools which are used across the country, and beyond. ERO also enables Ontarians who might not otherwise have access to a Registered Dietitian to call or email a RD for free. The loss of these services as of the end of March is going to be a huge blow to these individuals as well as to healthcare professionals, particularly Registered Dietitians, who use these resources and who refer people to their services.

ERO had 22,198 contacts between January 2017 and December 2017. These consisted of 11,562 telephone calls and 10,636 emails. This does not include the millions of visits to the website every year. ERO was also the recent recipient of an internationally recognized eHealthcare Leadership gold medal for Best Overall Internet Site. At a time when other provinces, such as Newfoundland and Saskatchewan are just starting telehealth dietetic services it is a step backward for Ontario to be terminating an established service.

Chronic diseases are the leading causes of preventable death and disability in Canada. Poor diet is a major contributor to risk of chronic disease and is a modifiable risk factor. RDs are the only regulated source of credible nutrition information in Canada. Unfortunately, many Canadians who would benefit from nutrition counselling do not have access to a RD as a result of limited services available in their area and/or a lack of coverage for RD services. A telehealth service such as ERO enables Ontarians, regardless of location or financial means, to access the services of a RD, thus promoting health equity across Ontario. Teledietetics is proven to provide positive outcomes in a number of areas. Such a service saves healthcare dollars by relieving some of the burden on emergency and local healthcare providers by reducing the need for these services. It also allows RDs, particularly those in public health, to focus their efforts on population health interventions as they can direct the public to a central credible source of nutrition information rather than spending time duplicating efforts by all creating similar factsheets and resources.

The loss of ERO will mean a loss of access to credible nutrition information for Ontarians, and Canadians, at a time when it is vital to combat the misinformation widely available on the Internet and peddled by self-styled nutrition “experts”. I urge you to reconsider the decision to terminate the funding for EatRight Ontario. If this is not an option, I ask that you continue to keep the ERO website live until an alternative site can be arranged to house and maintain the resources. I also ask that you include access to Registered Dietitians as part of your consolidated telehealth services.

Respectfully,


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Follow Friday: Fermentation Festival

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I know I swore off food festivals after the disappointment that was Cheesefest this year and Taste the County last year but I’m pretty confident that the Fermentation Festival will be different. For one thing, it’s a steal at only $8 admission. There’s not much you can do for $8 these days. Even if it ends up being a bust (which I’m pretty sure it won’t) at least you’re only out less than 10 bucks. For another thing, fermented foods are awesome and there’s so much innovation happening in that area these days. Probably the highlight of Cheesefest for me was the fermented cashew spread (think a sort of thick tangy hummus that take avocado toast to the next level). I can’t wait to see what other new products are on the market, or in development, and where better to find out than an entire festival devoted to said products?

In addition to loads of samples, there are lots of fun activities planned for all ages throughout the day. Think you make the best home ferments? Enter the amateur ferment competition. Want to learn more about fermented foods, the importance of microbes for our health, or how to make your own fermented foods? Attend one of the many workshops going on throughout the day. Kids in tow? Take them to the interactive activities where they can learn, make crafts, and colour. No kids in tow? Check out the beer and wine garden; classic fermented beverages!

The Fermentation Festival is taking place on Saturday, August 19th at the Crystal Palace in Picton. For more information, check out the link above or visit the facebook page where updates are being posted regularly. Hope to see you there!


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Follow Friday: Bay of Quinte Art & Wine @BoQ_Art_Wine

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If you’re in the Belleville area on June 10th you should probably check out the Bay of Quinte Art & Wine Festival happening downtown. There will be local artists showing and selling their works. While perusing the art, you can sample local wine (or beer) and have a snack from a local food vendor, and enjoy the sounds of the Quinte Symphony.

The festival is taking place from 10 am to 8 pm to suit morning and evening people alike. For the latest info about this event, follow them on twitter at @BoQ_Art_Wine. If you’re an artist, food vendor, or beverage producer and would like to get involved, I believe that they still have spaces available so get in touch with them via their website or social media.

The lovely image used on the banner of the BOQ Art& Wine website is of a painting by my talented neighbour (and cat sitter extraordinaire) Claudette Belanger.

 


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Local Food Week: a dairy farmer

Today’s guest post comes from Jen Christie, a dairy farmer in Ontario. We connected on twitter a little while ago. She’s been a great supporter of my blog so I was happy to hear that she was interested in writing a guest post for Local Food Week when I put out the call a few weeks ago. She also sent me a bunch of amazing photos (with captions!) to choose from to include with her post. I couldn’t choose just one so my apologies for the inundation of images today. Hey, it’s Friday :) For more from Jen, you can find her blogging at Savvy Farmgirl or follow her on Twitter @SavvyFarmgirl.

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My nieces helping feed hay in the new dairy barn.

Note: Even with all my travel, work and volunteering, my favourite place to be is still the farm. 

This post is a tribute to my family who works day-in, day-out and encourages me share their story through social media even though I’m not there alongside them everyday. It’s because of them I’m so passionate about agriculture.

Why do we farm? It’s a question my family has talked about a lot lately as consumers, environmental groups and government put increasing pressure on how we farm. For us, the answer is simple, although the work itself is typically not so much.

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My brother getting ready to combine corn in the fall. If it snows early, sometimes we have to combine in the snow to get the crop off.

We love growing crops and producing milk for Canadians to enjoy. It’s in our blood. Our farm has been in my family since my dad’s ancestors emigrated from Ireland in the 1800’s. My mom grew up on a farm, which my Opa purchased after leaving his farm in Holland after the war. It’s been said that farmers grow roots in their land, and for my family, I believe this is true.

We are passionate about farming, and it’s nearly impossible to say what we we love most. When we talk about why we farm, my mom and dad and brothers will all name different reasons, then all agree with each other. Watching seeds sprout from the ground and then each day growing taller. Helping a new calf into the world. Listening to cows happily “munch” on hay at dusk. The satisfaction at the end of a hard day, feeling you did something.

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My brother helps his 5-year-old daughter wash her calf so she can take it to the local fair. Growing up, we all participated in local fairs, showing a different calf each year in 4-H.

The list is endless and among these reasons, there are also differences between my parents and brothers.

My dad loves the challenge of trying to breed the “perfect cow”. He started with a few dairy and beef cows from his parents and over the past forty years he grew our herd to 150 cows, with each generation getting better and better.

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My parents work together to roll out a bale of hay for the heifers. The hay is grown on our farm and baled into round bales or large, rectangular-shaped bales. 

By contrast, my youngest brother loves using data to make better decisions about cow care. We built a new barn two years ago and our cows are milked with a robot. The 60 cows we milk visit the robot whenever they wish, and the robot collects information he then uses to care for each one individually. Cow “Fit Bits” even tell him when a cow may be sick by monitoring her eating and walking habits!

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My brother sorts milk samples the robot has taken to test each cow’s milk quality.

My other brother loves being in the field. He loves big tractors and equipment and yes, probably some days, it seems he’s just a big kid playing with his toys. Behind the scenes though, he is always planning and trying to find ways to be more sustainable. He experiments with cover crops and is constantly striving to improve soil health, while also maintaining the amount of soybeans or wheat he produces.

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My nephew watches as we unload soybeans from the combine into the wagon. From there they are either stored for feed on our farm or trucked to a company who will export them.

Finally, my mom is fiercely proud of the calves she raises. She ensures they get a good start, paying close attention to each one of them as they grow up. She considers it our duty to produce a quality product which will make great butter, ice cream and cheese. She has done so, alongside my dad everyday for over thirty-five years, with rarely a holiday or a break. (I can count on one hand how many vacations we took as kids.)

Common for everyone is the opportunity to raise their family on the farm. Growing up on the farm served me well, teaching me the value of hard work, respect and compassion among other things. My brothers’ kids are following in our footsteps. At only 2, my youngest niece asks to go to the barn every night and her older brother knows the name of every piece of equipment. My oldest niece can explain to any visitor how the robot works and what we feed our calves and she is only 6!

It’s not all rosy though. Weather is always the biggest variable and of course, we have no control over it. Luckily, in Ontario we get pretty consistent heat and rain and we don’t experience the extreme droughts or hail Western Canadian farmers get. Equipment breaks and everything goes on hold to fix it. Cows get sick and sometimes even the vet can’t figure out why. It’s heartbreaking to lose an animal and it will often weigh on our minds when we do.

Then, there is the cost of operation. For us, land and quota are our biggest expenses. To continue supporting 3 families, we need to be able to grow. To make the cost more manageable, we try to add a little more land or a few more cows each year.

Despite the long days and heartbreak that comes with farming, my family wouldn’t do anything else. We love what we do and we love being part of a small community where everyone knows each other and pitches in to help.

For us, every week is “local food week” because the strength of our small town depends on its citizens buying from local businesses and participating in local events. We are grateful that Canadians buy our dairy products everyday and the least we can do is pay this forward by buying local and buying Canadian.

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The milk truck comes every other day to pick up our milk for processing into butter, cheese, ice cream, and pasteurized milk. 


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Local Food Week: Joining a CSA

I first connected with Anne McCutcheon on Twitter because of our mutual addiction to running. In addition to sharing great photos of bicycles and graveyards she also shares witty insights into her life. In this post she shares her story about belonging to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). For more from Anne, follow her on Twitter @AnnelizabethRUN and check out her photos on Instagram @annelizabethrun.

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I, like many Canadians grew up on a farm, the seasons dictated the activities and the weather forecasted the day to day movements. I experienced the usual migration of rural young people to a city for education, but the draw of a small community, and the need for connection to nature brought me back to small town living.  Over time, I developed an interest in the local food movement and thus a natural progression to supporting local farmers is becoming a member a Community supported agriculture farm.

As luck would have it, this was 2010 and 2010 was the year Jeff Boesch and Leslie Moskovits set up shop outside of Neustadt Ontario on the Cedar Downs Farm. It was to be their first year as lead farmers on their very own farm providing vegetable shares to the communities of Hanover, Guelph, and Paisley.   

Becoming a member since it’s inception of the Cedar Downs Farm has allowed myself and my children a connection to the land, and to the farmers that make their living on the farm.  Weekly newsletters provide updates on the weekly, monthly, and yearly harvest of the food grown. Weekly pick ups with Jeff, Leslie and other farm employees provide personal relationships with those who grow our food. 

As the spring comes into summer, and fades into fall, and winter arrives we eat with the seasons based on what is ready that week. My children know we are eating asparagus at every meal in the spring, mid summer is alive with tomato’s and winter means squash soup.

Of course, it is not always perfect. My eyes have been greedy and I came home with too many eggplants that rotted in the fridge and sometimes the thought of eating cabbage yet again makes my daughter request we belong to a fruit only CSA instead.

Overall, the thought of knowing exactly where 75% of our food is produced is worth it. Knowing that mostly there is food in the fridge that will produce a healthy and nutritious meal, even if I have to spend time cooking it.