Over Easter I had a chance to get into our vegetable garden. Harvested the last of the tomatoes, some chillies and got things tidied up for planting more cauliflower, broccoli and broad beans. Most of my life I have had a vegetable garden and have been able to grow some of the food I eat, an enormously satisfying experience I worry is increasingly less common.
Fruit and vegetables have come up quite often in recent conversations. I hear about (and see) the good work happening in a number of our schools where vegetables are grown and compost bins tended. A budget adviser told me that in England there is a requirement for schools to have fruit trees to give students access to fresh fruit. I’m not sure how this works but it didn’t seem to be a bad idea. Both of these approaches provide fresh healthy food to young people (for some, from families struggling to make ends meet and where food is scarce, this is a practical help) and show young people that food is something you can grow (not just buy in the supermarket).
In fact in a country like New Zealand with a natural advantage in producing food we should maximise opportunities to encourage people to grow food. Even those with limited space can grow produce like tomatoes and salad greens in containers.
It is scandalous that fresh healthy food which we can grow easily is as expensive as it is. It is not the producers who are making huge profits from fruit and vegetables but supermarkets are a different story. I was interested in a feature in the Sunday Star Times particularly the comments about industrialised (processed) foods, the food industry, natural foods and about the importance of cooking (another skill that is not as widespread as it once was it seems).
Food is one of our fundamental needs. Despite this as a result of poverty too many people globally including some in New Zealand do not have an adequate and regular supply of the food they need. Food is something that is huge business. If you look at the worlds largest companies food producers and retailers are right up there – huge, profitable global corporates with enormous purchasing and marketing power.
For all of these reasons (and for our health) lets ensure we hold on to the skills of growing and cooking food.
On the local and immediate, one final request following a conversation with a local food bank – if you have surplus fruit or vegetables give it to the food bank. They are generally unable to provide fresh food and some of the food that goes to waste (think ahead to the forthcoming feijoa season) can make a difference.