On Tuesday I joined the stage with Maddie, a young indigenous leader, a strong empowered woman, a 21 year old single mum, working hard to finish school. She was there to share her story about what it's really like to be poor and regularly experience food insecurity.
She told us how last week she was standing in the supermarket with $10 to her name, trying to work out how to feed herself and her son for the next week, and that this is not an uncommon thing for her. Everyday life is a struggle.
What would you do if you had $10 left to buy food for 5 days?
She also told the forum that she is so glad there is free food growing in parks and gardens. When she's desperate, that's where she goes. She said it's what saves them from hunger. Publicly accessible community gardens are vital.
It is so good to know that fruit trees we planted over 20 years ago in various council parks are now mature and feeding lots of people in need, but it's such a small drop in a very big ocean. Another thing is, these gardens have been established by volunteers with little financial support.
Imagine if there was support to grow so much more food in the cities and towns for free picking - hardy fruits, herbs and perennial vegetables. Things that are robust, long lasting and easy to grow.
Imagine if we encouraged and showed people how to take cuttings to grow food in their own homes. We don't have to buy everything!
Imagine park planning involving the design and development of urban food forests - fabulous diverse food producing parks for the people. This is actually happening in a number of cities.
Community food systems are not just a nice thing to do. They are critically important for addressing not only food insecurity, but food sovereignty (the ability to access real and appropriate food, not just a certain number of calories for survival.)
Diverse food gardens are a source of life and hope. They are places where people:
- connect with the community and find support
- can access real food freely
- can learn how to grow food simply and cheaply
- can access space to grow food with security (many rental properties not offering this option)
- can find peace and calm, and a place to think
- can learn new skills for employment
- cook up shared meals and learn how to use the seasonal produce
- can grow culturally appropriate foods not typically available in stores
- can go for low-cost or no-cost social events and fun for the kids
These are just a few of reasons gardens, especially community gardens are so vitally important. Real food is essential for our bodies and minds, to think clearly, to have energy, to have lasting health.
The number of community gardens is growing, but the issues that emerged at the forum were whether the people who really need the food have the capacity to be involved (physically or emotionally) or feel comfortable to approach these garden groups. Partnerships between those working to help people in poverty and community gardens are happening, but there could be so much more.
Like I said in my last post, one in six children in Australia live in poverty and experience hunger. I feel that those of us who have the capacity to do something, can help but growing good food in public places - food that is available to anyone who needs it. Also organise community cook-ups and welcome people and organisations to participate. Most importantly we need to listen to the people who are experiencing hunger and work with them to find positive, lasting solutions.
|Dr Richard Denniss, Chief Economist at the Australia Institute - the funniest and most understandable economist I'd ever met who made so much common sense.|
A comment that stuck in my mind, by Dr Richard Denniss, Chief Economist from the Australia Institute (co-author of Affluenza, and author of Econobabble), is that, as a nation, we do entirely have the economic capacity to end poverty, but there is not the will. It's not a popular way to spend the national budget. He gave the example that we'd rather invest in a fleet of new nuclear subs, even though we already had some and hadn't used them much. It's about our values and priorities.
Get involved. Poverty is a much bigger issue than most people realise, or want to acknowledge, in rich countries like Australia.
|The event was the Ending Poverty and Inequality in QLD Public Forum at the Edge, Southbank, that was part of Anti-Poverty Week. The MC was social justice advocate & channel 7 TV anchor, Kay Macgrath.|