Call For Middlesex London Food Policy Council Members Extended

Are you interested in being a part of food system change in Middlesex London? Then the Middlesex London Food Policy Council needs you.

The Middlesex London Food Policy Council was established in November 2017.

We are a group of dedicated volunteers working towards a local, sustainable and accessible food system in London and Middlesex County.

We are now seeking applications for the January 2021 – December 2023 term.

The role description and application form can be downloaded here. Please direct any queries to info@mlfpc.ca

Please share this post with your networks or individuals who you think might be interested.

Applications are due by November 30, 2020

Benjamin Hill, Chair 

Middlesex London Food Policy Council

https://mlfpc.ca/ 

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Food for Thought: COVID-19 Reflections

Of the many ways Covid has made our relationship with the world more complicated, none is more constant than the way we think about our food.  We want to eat, in a way that brings sustenance and pleasure with minimal risk and the spectrum of normal food habits, in our pre-Covid lives was very broad. Now that we have had time to consider our feelings about UberEats vs baking bread, it may be prudent to implement a regime to optimize our health potential and try to support one another.

An overview of some recent changes, to our personal food gathering, will hopefully offer a positive direction, to lead future decisions. Food habits, in the pre-Covid times, may have been shaped by convenience and indulgence. Many of our ‘old ways’ were not healthy as evidenced by our lifestyle diseases, such as metabolic syndrome and the obesity epidemic, contributing to chronic health issues like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. Not to mention the enormous amount of single use plastic waste we generate from convenience foods and the food service industry. These may be two good reasons to reassess, was normal really optimal?

Shopping for food at grocery stores has changed.  From lineups to enter the store, a multitude of signage, directional arrows and the plexiglass all remind us that shopping requires awareness, should be done alone and if possible, at non peak times.  Some stores were offering seniors hours as an added amenity.  Grocery delivery and curbside pickup required a level of technical savvy that was a challenge to some and an asset to many. Apart from produce and perishables, which people like to pick out on their own, these services can be very helpful.  A throwback to 40 years ago, when green grocers and butchers had an urban market share for weekly shopping and the dry goods were purchased in bulk, less frequently.  May be a consideration as the horizon stretches out.  

As Phase 1 of the Provincial opening, farmers markets were allowed to open, which was excellent but the plight of the migrant workers that farmers depend on, was  a source of numerous issues from Covid safety to workers’ rights, those issues will need to be dealt with, since these skilled workers are essential to the ability to produce and harvest food locally.

The early part of lockdown saw an increase in the consumption of overly processed food and comfort eating by some, leading to the Covid 8.6 kg weight gain.  Cooking at home was somewhere between a novelty and a necessity.  The abundance of time, for some,  gave way to the baking phenomena resulting in shortages of flour, yeast, and eggs.  People were seeing food as finite and meal planning at home emerged, based on what was available and what needed to be used up.  Home meal preparation does not need to be complicated. Simple, unprocessed items identified in Canada’s Food Guide as vegetable and fruit, whole grains and proteins should be the staples, prepared in ways that are manageable.  

Covid has forced our relationship with retail food services from an, anywhere, anytime, to a homebody economy and retailers who can rebound, reboot, and reinvent according to Nielsen, may be better suited to hold a bigger segment of the market share. So, what do customers value? People want to make purchases that will boost their local economy. Local brands were identified as an accelerator for decision making, as was food that had a healthy, potentially protective, or immune enhancing property.  The Food Retail Environment Study for Health and Economic Resiliency (FRESHER), at UWO “is a pilot study of the effects of COVID-19 on restaurants, fast food outlets, grocery stores, cafes, bars, pubs, and alcohol retail stores in Ontario, across all types of communities”. Using interviews and surveys they will be able to influence policies going forward.  

So where do we go from here?  Shop wisely, using all the public health guidelines related to reducing droplet transmission.  Respect and embrace the simple domestic art of home meal preparation, using locally sourced ingredients, where possible and meal plan to avoid waste.  Consider how you can help support a local business, while minimizing extra plastic waste.  Where restaurants have had some benefit with outdoor patios, this will not be the case in the coming months and it will be difficult to serve on site, possibly making takeout more favorable.  Above all, we must continue to be vigilant and stay well, self-care through excellent nutrition is a good place to start.  Winter is coming and once again, the times are changing.

 

About the author: Susan Smith is a volunteer at the MLFPC with long-standing expertise in nutrition. She graduated from UWO, Brescia University College in 1995 and has been a clinical dietitian at the London Health Science Center for almost 25 years! Susan has a keen interest in sustainable food systems that create a harmonious urban-rural relationship with a focus on community health and a minimal carbon footprint. 

London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund: Middlesex County Contributor Spotlight

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has been created in partnership with Club House for Chefs and McCormick Canada, the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network,rTraction, Tourism London and the Western Fair District. The fund awards eligible, independent restaurant operators with grants of $1,000 to support their businesses to open or remain open through the difficult times caused by COVID-19. 

For this interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with Cara Finn, Director of Economic Development for Middlesex County. Middlesex County is one of the generous contributors to the London Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund. Middlesex County received a grant from the Federal Government with the sole purpose of providing relief and recovery for tourism operators in Middlesex County, and so they were excited to use this to partner in this project.

 When asked why she thought it was important to support local restaurants during this time, Cara responded,  “These people work so hard, and I can tell you within the first couple of days of COVID-19, many of the questions I had from restaurant operators in the county and in London was not, ‘what are we going to do’ or you know, ‘my business is going to fail’, it was ‘how can we help?’, ‘how can we help our staff that we may have to do temporary layoffs for?’, ‘how can we connect with other employers in the region such as those in agriculture that are maybe ramping up their season while we have to go into this period of flux and pivoting?’ It was incredible.”  “They are so deserving of our support.” It’s great to hear of the sense of community that occurs in this industry.

Cara also mentioned that the fund helps our local restaurants by validating the hard work that is happening. “It validates the effort that they’ve placed into making sure that we’re taken care of, making sure that we are healthy and safe, and allows them just a small smidgen of financial backing to be able to do what they’re already doing, which is go one step beyond.”

Creative solutions are continuing to emerge, such as the four additional pop-up patios in the Strathroy downtown core that allow for more dining space, and the extension of market seasons such as with the Komoka Market, which will now be able to extend its season until Thanksgiving.

Middlesex County, together with the Middlesex London Health Unit, Middlesex London Food Policy Council, Middlesex Federation of Agriculture, Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, and with help from the Federal Economic Development Association of Southern Ontario, recently launched the Middlesex County Culinary Guide, which is available online at https://www.visitmiddlesex.ca/plan/maps-guides/middlesex-county-culinary-guide, as well as in print this week. The Middlesex County Culinary Guide showcases restaurants in the Middlesex community, along with markets, and food producers, that all work together to make things happen for our community. 

With one last message for our local restaurants, Cara emphasizes the appreciation that is held for our hard-working restaurant community. “At Middlesex County our whole message for economic development is really one of appreciating the businesses that invest in our community. That’s the message I want to give people. It doesn’t go unnoticed. We know how hard people are working. We know the stresses, both financial and emotional that are happening for each of us as individuals, but then add that tenfold if you are trying to operate a business in this climate. The main message is that we see them, we know how much work they have put into it, and we’re here to support them.”

The London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund has has already awarded grants to twenty-seven restaurants and is continuing to look for local enterprises to step up and support the fund. To apply to this fund or to make a contribution, please visit lmrsf.ca.

The Masonville and Ilderton Farmers’ Market Are Open For Bussiness

Last week the Middlesex-London community welcomed the reopenings of the Masonville and Ilderton Farmers’ market!

The Masonville Farmers Market is open every Friday from 8 am to 1 pm from July 3rd to October. This market is conveniently located at the corner of Fanshawe Park Road & Richmond street in the Masonville Mall parking lot. Before visiting, there are a couple of precautions to keep in mind. There’s only one entrance, and masks must be worn. Luckily, if you forget your mask at home, they will provide you with one. They will be marking the traffic flow direction while limiting the number of customers to ensure proper social distancing. They ask to please leave the kiddo’s and fur babies at home; however, service animals will be admitted. To ensure the safety of customers and vendors, their vendors will be bagging all items.

The Ilderton Farmers Market is another exciting opening for the community. This farmers market is located at 13230 Ilderton Rd, Ilderton, Ontario and is open every Saturday from 8 am to 12 pm. As with many other markets, the community’s wellbeing is their top priority. They have put in place safety protocols to protect our community and our vendors. The market area will be roped off, and all shoppers must enter through a controlled entrance where everyone will be asked to use hand sanitizer. The number of shoppers permitted within the market area will be limited. Signage will instruct shoppers to practice physical distancing. Vendors will be well spaced apart with marks on the pavement to show shoppers where to stand while waiting for their turn. All vendors will use hand sanitizer between money exchanges and interactions. All vendors will disinfect all touched surfaces and objects.

Farmers’ markets are essential businesses, but as we’re going through the effects of COVID-19, we need to keep in mind the safety of our community. If you’re feeling sick, please stay home. Please respect the guidelines put into place by our health unit and local markets as we’re still trying to navigate through the pandemic.

5 Local Restaurants That You Need To Try This Summer!

COVID-19 has deeply affected the way we interact, educate and work. A sector that has been increasingly dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic is the food and service sector. London-Middlesex is home to a variety of small food shops. Since dine-in options are limited, these mom and pop shops are seeing fewer customers. In light of the situation, we’ve compiled a list of black and indigenous-owned businesses that host delicious products that you should try!

Asmara Cafe brings traditional coffee-making methods from Eritrea, Africa, into our backyards. Their coffee is freshly roasted, brewed on-site using high-quality Ethiopian coffee beans. Their house specialty is Ethiopian Yirga Chefe coffee! Alongside your coffee, you can also enjoy a variety of breakfast and lunch items! Their current summer feature is seasonal ice cream from Shaw’s ice cream! The flavours they have include vanilla, chocolate, turtle fudge and moose tracks. For a relaxing and memorable coffee experience, be sure to visit Asmara Cafe.

Vas Cuisine provides delicious African (Nigerian) dishes with a homemade feel! They source local ingredients to ensure high-quality meals. Some fan favourites from their menu include their ofada rice (grown in south-west Nigeria) and egusi (a delicious savoury stew). Some vegan options are also available, making this an inclusive eatery. Reviewers rave about the hospitable owners and sizable portions. On top of that, they offer delivery and catering in London. Vas Cuisine offers traditional comfort food classics that are a must-try!

A hidden gem in the Middlesex-London community is Caribbean Stove Pickup! Located right by Horton and Wellington, this restaurant at the center of the city packs a punch of delicious flavour in their dishes. Some recommendations from avid customers include oxtail, jerk chicken and curry potato & channa! Their pricing is very reasonable on their website; they clearly outline ingredients, vegetarian and vegan options. Their food is spiced to perfection and will leave you wanting more!

Indigenous-owned Manitoulin Brewing provides unique craft beer made from Little Current Ontario! The creation of this brewing is a classic passion project. Owners, Blair, Nishin and Joet, are three friends wanting to give something back to their homes in the North. Thus they created a brewing company that embodies comfort and care, something they put in all of their recipes. Some staff recommendations include swing Bridge Blonde, Killarney Cream Ale and Cup and Saucer English Ale. Although they’re not from London-Middlesex, they’re currently offering free delivery to the area! Try their drinks paired with your next family barbeque!

Giizihigat Maple Products is another indigenous-owned business. They produce maple syrup of the highest quality. Both owners, Isaac and Deborah, come from families that have been making maple syrup for generations. Deborah’s mom recalls helping her uncle collect sap and hauling the syrup out of the bush on a large stone canoe pulled by a horse. Meanwhile, Isaac recalls helping his grandfather make maple syrup as a young boy. Since starting Giizihigat Maple Products in 2012, they have perfected the science of running sap, building on lessons learned each season to bring customers the finest maple syrup in all of Ontario. They hold a variety of products from maple butter to maple syrup candy. For your next Sunday breakfast, consider supporting this family-owned syrup shop!

Komoka Community Market Weekend Opening!

We’re excited to announce the opening of Komoka Community Market! Starting this weekend, the Komoka market will be open from 9 am – 2 pm. Before entering their market, please revise their COVID-19 guidelines. Their guidelines include remaining socially distanced (6 feet apart), using hand sanitizer upon arrival and following their indicated directional flow. If you’re bringing children to the market, they encourage wagons and strollers to ensure kids are not wandering off. If you intend to bring reusable bags, they ask for you to handle bagging your treats while only touching items you intend to purchase. Their wellness centre will be closed during market hours; therefore, there will be no access to public restrooms. There’s a broad array of vendors, and many will be accepting cash. For more information about their opening, please visit their instagram and facebook pages! 

Feeding Your Future – Virtual Career Fairs

Are you interested in a career in agriculture? The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is hosting multiple online career fairs. To participate, please see the details below.

Dates: June 18, 2020 Time: 2-5pm Area: Middlesex/London & Surrounding Areas Job Seeker Registration: https://pheedloop.com/register/feedyourfuturemiddlesexlondon/attendee/

Date: June 23, 2020 Time: 2-5pm Area: Brant/Haldimand/Norfolk/Niagara/Hamilton & Surrounding Areas Job Seeker Registration: https://pheedloop.com/register/feedyourfuturebranthaldimandnorfolkniagarahamilton/attendee/

Date: June 25, 2020 Time: 2-5pm Area: Quinte/Hastings/Belleville/Prince Edward & Surrounding Areas Job Seeker Registration: https://pheedloop.com/register/feedyourfuturequintehastingsbellevilleprinceedward/attendee/

Date: June 30, 2020 Time: 2-5pm Area: Renfrew/Lanark/Ottawa & Surrounding Areas Job Seeker Registration: https://pheedloop.com/register/feedyourfuturerenfrewlanarkottawa/attendee/

Employers can register by emailing feedyourfuture@agcareers.com

Dietitian Recommendations for June Seasonal Produce!

There are so many reasons June is a great month, and local strawberries are one of those reasons. The delicate flavours of June produce are in stark contrast to the more aggressive Brassics we enjoyed in May. Warm weather will continue to expand the flavour and nutrient profiles of what our local farmers will be bringing to market. It was evident in the markets this past weekend that the COVID precautions are becoming second nature, as the respectful shoppers hunted and gathered. 

Consider the pleasing esthetic of the humble strawberry, a beautiful bright red colour with a distinct bite-size shape like no other and a soft, sweet, juicy interior.  It would be enough if it were to boast about being an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of fibre. Still, the antioxidant Pelargonidin, which is responsible for the red coloration, also has some neuroprotective properties.  A recent study at Rush Institute of Healthy Aging in Chicago, concluded, using food frequency questionnaires over six years, that strawberries may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia in older adults. 

Asparagus is a wondrous bit of history dating back to 3000 BC and gaining popularity in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. We are sadly nearing the end of the growing season, which started in May. Harvesting the asparagus shoots is very laborious as it must be done carefully by hand. The delicate green stalks offer two distinct eating experiences. The tip requires very little cooking and is beyond tender with a flavour like broccoli. The stem has a pleasing creaminess when well cooked and a refreshing snap when lightly blanched. Asparagus has a generous 1.8g fibers/1/2cup and is known to be a diuretic, overall a clean sweep.

Small pickling cucumbers make great pickles, but they also make great cucumbers.  These little minis have a thin skin, tiny seeds and a pleasing delicate melon flavour when eaten raw.  Cucumbers are low in calories because of the high (96%) water content. Most of the nutrients are in the peel. Making pickling cucumbers into pickles using the Lacto fermented Kosher method does not use vinegar and can enhance your gut microbiome with probiotics. 

The deep purple-red colour of the beetroot is a clue that this vegetable deserves some attention.  Originally coveted for their edible greens, the beetroot was first known for its functionality as a fabric dye and a digestive aid.  Beets can be eaten raw or cooked, but the slightly bitter skin is more easily removed after cooking. Beets contain natural nitrates, which elevate them to the functional foods category due to their potential to inhibit inflammation and reduce blood pressure. 

How fortunate we are to live in a county that has local farmers producing such aabundance of delicious fruits and vegetables.  Visiting a farmer’s market is a way to really connect with the individuals who dedicate themselves to the noble business of supplying us with the freshest, healthiest food available.  It is worth the effort to supplement your food shopping with a trip to the farmers market. 

 

 About the author: Susan Smith is a volunteer at the MLFPC with long-standing expertise in nutrition. She graduated from UWO, Brescia University College in 1995 and has been a clinical dietitian at the London Health Science Center for almost 25 years! Susan has a keen interest in sustainable food systems that create a harmonious urban-rural relationship with a focus on community health and a minimal carbon footprint. 

Resource: An inside look into a local farm

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside local egg farms? Megan Veldman, an egg farmer just north of London, Ontario describes and shares her experience. Megan is a family farmer & has 25,000 hens to care for. Her video can be found here!