Ethical Eats

Brought to you by Oxfam @ Queen's

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Food Security Event: “Gender and the Global Land Grab” @ The Sleepless Goat!

          Last Monday night was both informational and delicious for many Queen’s students and members of the Kingston community. Why? Because on Monday evening, Food Security was fortunate enough to have Andrea Collins, a Ph.D. candidate in political studies here at Queen’s, join us at The Sleepless Goat to speak about “Gender and the Global Land Grab.” The issue of land grabs is quite important to Food Security because we know that land grabs are a significant cause of food insecurity around the world.

          The event was held at The Sleepless Goat, a wonderful café on Princess Street, right here in downtown Kingston. What is so special about The Sleepless Goat? So many things! For one thing, they sell fair trade coffee! Also, they use local and organic food in their meals because they are committed to socially and environmentally sustainable and ethical business practices. Also, there are lots of unique dishes available – for instance, I tried a sweet potato and cheddar quesadilla that was absolutely delicious.

          Just in case you have never heard of The Sleepless Goat, here is their website: Be sure to check out their mission statement and view the menu!

          Now, onto the truly education part of the evening. We’ve already seen a couple posts about land grabs here on Ethical Eats so I won’t go into a lot of detail about them, but Andrea pointed out some interesting things that I hadn’t previously realized, especially about alternatives to land grabs and raising awareness about them.

          For instance, she reminded us that large corporations investing in land can be a positive development for communities if it’s done fairly. Agricultural production on a large scale does have the potential to provide jobs for local residents. Therefore, instead of firms grabbing and taking over land that is being used by local farmers, it would be beneficial if firms hired local farmers to produce the food that they require. This system would allow the local farmers to earn money while continuing to produce the food they and their families need. But in order to encourage corporations to behave in a more ethical way, consumers need to take action.

          Andrea mentioned Oxfam’s Behind the Brands initiative (in which Oxfam @ Queen’s took part last semester) as an example of local advocacy to help combat land grabbing. She emphasized the importance of consumers holding the corporations from whom we purchase food and other products responsible for their actions. She reminded us that even if we are still students, it is crucial that we think and learn about where our food comes from, and seek out ways to hold corporations who source products unethically accountable until they agree to make a change.

          We are so grateful to Andrea for dedicating her evening to educating us more about land grabs. Hopefully everyone who attended the talk left with a renewed vigour to help put a stop to them!



Winter Butternut Squash Soup

roasted butternut squash soup2


This recipe combines two great things: Butternut squash soup (which happens to my favorite), and a clever way to use produce that is in season. “How can anything be in season when Kingston is currently experiencing a blizzard?!!”, you ask? It’s amazing that anything can overwinter and taste just as great as when it was harvest, just maybe a little more wrinkled. What better way to pay respect to these amazing vegetables than to whip up this recipe?
* The squash, onion, carrots, and apples can all be found at a farmer’s market or store that sources local produce (eg. Tara’s or John’s Deli in Kingston)
1 medium butternut (or acorn etc.) squash
1 small onions, chopped
2 tbsp butter
1 celery sticks, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
4 cups of chicken stock or water
A dash of some or all of the following:
 ground pepper, salt, thyme, oregano, basil, 
more cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice etc…
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Half the squash, scoop out the innards, and slather a 1/2 tbsp of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon and allspice on each half. Pour a bit of water in the bottom of a square glass dish, place the squash face up, and cover with tinfoil poked with holes to let steam escape. Bake at 400 degrees C for 45 min.
Meanwhile, fry the onion and garlic in in the bottom of a pot until golden and soft. Add celery , apples and carrots, and pour in 4 cups of chicken stock (or veggie). If you don’t have stock (like me), just add water and a bit of salt, or some soup mix from Soup in a Cup sans noodles 🙂
Add spices and ginger and bring to a boil. Once boiling, scoop out the squash and add it. Lower heat to medium and boil for approximately 10 minutes or until squash and apple are soft and it all smells awesome.  Now for my favorite part: Remove from heat and purée in batches!
Eat it with crackers and cheese, or with bread for dipping. Happy eating!
Recipe loosely based on
image from

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Yoga, Mindfulness, and Food Ethics

“Beyond calories and diets, mindful eating takes a more holistic approach that can empower individuals to build positive relationships with food and eating,” said first author Celia Framson, M.P.H., R.D., C.D…former yoga teacher.

I would like to bring to Ethical Eats a spiritual, thoughtful, dimension of ethics and food.  The ethics of food covers a breadth of topics – from issues of environmental protection, to resource use in agriculture, to meat consumption, to the embeddedness of power and poverty in food systems, and so on.  In this now complex, blurred-bordered world, awareness and information for such ethical concerns has been fostered through a range of media channels and social networks (whether it be technologically or organically transferred).  We now have access to innovative and creative tools that guide us on our paths to vegetarianism or veganism.  We have libraries and networks of information that shed light upon the importance of making conscious consumer choices, including local, organic, and fair trade products.  I am supportive of this spark: alternative media, our peers, and our diverse communities can lead us to make enlightened choices in our daily lives.

Still, I get a sort of mental itch in thinking that this is the best that we, as humans, can do.  It is easy and convenient to take on a consumerist mode of attack.  I notice, however, that there exists a superficial barrier in flaunting mindful actions, without intention: without mindfulness itself, really.   Our submission to external cues can only penetrate the outer perimeter of the inner psyche.  This brings about a range of questions: is this true altruism?  Are we making our ‘ethical’ choices in sole response to social pressures?  And, ultimately, what is the consequence for the sustainability of alternate food systems if trend comes to trump intention?

Personally, I see that there exist important linkages between meditation and food ethics, to respond to these questions. In fact, this perspective is grounded in various scientific studies as well.  The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center of Seattle, for example, conducted a study on yoga and weight-loss from the perspective of mind-body-awareness affecting eating behaviours.  Kristal, a yoga enthusiast, sees yoga as a mode of cultivating mindfulness, for example, by holding a physical pose and by observing discomfort in a non-judgmental way…”this ability to be calm and observant during physical discomfort teaches us how to maintain calm in other challenging situations, such as…not eating when you’re not hungry,” he said.  A “mindful eating questionnaire” was developed on the basis of factors like food awareness, and eating due to emotional response, distraction, or external cues.  Mindful eating was concluded as a key determinant of weight maintenance.

For more information, here is an article on the study:

I believe that some important, direct and indirect, philosophical connections can be made between yoga, mindfulness, and food ethics (beyond the weight-loss dimension).  Let us draw them out:

  1. Flexibility
    A common theme to yoga practice is the pushing of oneself to a physical edge…here we observe pain in a thoughtful way, extending, retracting, or adjusting as necessary.  When it comes to food, no individual comes from the same origin, nor will they come to take on the same ethical food profile.  Ethical eating can mean understanding your own cravings and desires, while using and developing inner tools to eventually put them into a wider context (for example, taking genuine consideration for your care for animals, the environment, poverty etc.) and adjusting your food behaviours gradually.  This takes time, but that’s the point.
  2. Balance
    A basic tenet, foundational to meditation and yoga practice, is the idea of focusing our minds and body chemicals in a way that settles our complex rhythms of emotion, egotism, anger, stress, and so forth.  Balance in the way that we eat is an imperative, not only health-wise, but also in terms of adjusting to new forms of ethical eating.  Your ethical food profile isn’t going to be ‘perfect’, but it can start with taking out one type of meat in your diet, for example.  (I took out beef, a couple years ago, both for spiritual, personal reasons, and for the sake of the environment.  You’ll find mountains of literature on this.)
  3. Pausing/Breath/Slowness
    I hate to tell you, but mindful eating means avoiding the tasty lure of over-consuming even the fairest of products (certified and standardized and everything).  Meditation allows you to take a mental pause.  When you make your green or ethical choices, think a little deeper.  Do you really need 50 fair trade chocolate bars?  The force is strong in consumerism, mostly because it acts as a social and mental indicator that we are tangibly doing something ‘good’, and in doing that something, we don’t really have to step too far out of our capitalist-based-comfort-zone.  And, believe me, I am pro-fair trade (shameless, MTF plug), but I recommend keeping in mind the importance of drawing back consumer and ecological footprints first: people tend to lose sight of that element nowadays.  Consider making food purchases based on necessity, in close combination with ethics and fairness.
  4. Mindfulness
    We are not ‘perfect’ beings, but we are gentle beings at the core.  Even the Dalai Lama eats meat occasionally, according to the Times of India.  But, at once, he maintained that “non-vegetarianism was bad for health and against the tenets of Buddhism which taught “karuna” (sympathy) to all living beings…[advocating] against luxuries in life”.  Mindfulness is about realizing that somewhere in all of us, we have the capacity to develop genuine consideration for all life on earth, in addition to the non-living components of earth.

In the end, everyone will come to take on a unique, green-ethical food profile, but first, look within.  Ultimately, mindfulness is what allows food security concerns to penetrate our daily decisions in a genuine way.  “Everyone has a seed of good heart,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama.


– Elephant Journal

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Feeding My Family – A Food Security Crisis in Canada’s North

Poverty, unemployment, and staggeringly high grocery bills have led to a long-standing, often-ignored food security crisis in Northern Canada. A typical trip to the grocery store will cost someone in Nunavut an average of $219.80, compared with an average of $113.99 in the rest of Canada. Fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult to find, and often spoil by the time they reach their destination. The effects of the crisis are felt especially by the Inuit, who have median incomes of $19 900/year, compared with $86 600/year for non-Aboriginal people. According to The Globe and Mail, 7/10 Inuit preschoolers live in homes without enough to eat.

The federal government has taken action — Nutrition North, a food-subsidy program (which replaced Food Mail in 2011) has driven down prices of “healthy” subsidized food by 5.5%. But there are criticisms that the subsidized foods are not culturally appropriate, and that selectively subsidizing foods doesn’t allow Northerners to make their own decisions about what to eat. Staple foods, such as flour and milk, remain exorbitantly expensive ($5/kilo and $10/4 L respectively).

Last year, Leesee Papatsie founded the Feeding My Family Group to highlight the high costs of food in Northern Canada and work with other Northerners to find solutions to the problem. It’s a huge task in an area where labour, building, maintenance, and electricity costs drive up the price of everything, but so far the coalition has succeeded in drawing Northerners together and brought the problem of food security to the attention of Southern Canadians.

I would recommend taking a look at the websites below to find out more about this issue.

For more information, check out:  

– Hannah Shirtliff