Pickles and Mayo – Not a part of Canada’s Food Guide

I’ll admit it – I am slightly addicted to the ‘what to pack in back to school lunches’ articles that crop up by the dozens each fall. I keep hoping for the holy grail of appealing healthy snacks and sandwiches that will ensure that the lunches I pack for my children are greeted with cheers and cries of ‘thanks Mom, you’re the best’! Unfortunately, like the grail, my quest is a long, demanding and often cheerless one. My need to follow the Canada Food Guide and my children’s desire for ‘mayo and pickle’ only sandwiches do not fall together in harmony and they won’t any time soon.

Reading these back to school articles, along with some of the great documents created in this province around food security in advance of BCAHL’s upcoming webinar, bring to the fore the sheer number of priorities that need to be juggled in discussing food. The definition of food security favoured by Dietitians of Canada is a truly all encompassing one – ““Food security is defined by a situation in which all community residents can obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes self-reliance and social justice.”

I like this definition and think it brings many of those priorities to the table, but how do we include all of those things in a concrete way, for those who are less academically inclined? So Eric Akis’ perspective in the Vancouver Sun last week appealed to me – he was talking about increasing kids’ appetite for healthy options through colour, (stickers work too according to one study.)

“I’m talking about healthy, fresh foods that have visual and taste appeal, such as berries, golden plums, purple grapes, cherry tomatoes, orange bell peppers and rich-green snap peas. Some parents will avoid buying some of these items because they deem them too expensive, but will not hesitate to purchase that colourfully packaged processed food that’s on sale. Evaluate the true cost of both and you’ll likely find that fine fresh produce is the best value, particularly nutrition wise.”

So juggling the different aspects of taste, appeal, price and nutrition are the tasks facing us every day in the grocery aisles. Fresh, whole foods can be cheaper pound-for-pound than their packaged counterparts. But if you live in a remote community or in a poor neighbourhood without a store that provides a good selection of fresh produce, healthy eating may not be as easy a choice.

I don’t think that my food dilemma is an uncommon one and unfortunately neither are the challenges experienced by those living on low incomes and in rural communities. The desire for practical solutions to community-wide problems is one we will explore in our webinar, Elements of Food Security on September 26. I hope you’ll join us and add your own perspective to the mix.

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Policy and Programs
August 2012


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