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Poverty And Food

On March 23,2015 the Star Gazette released an article entitled, "Childhood Poverty Called Epidemic In New York Cities." Click on the following link to read the article.

For those of us who live in New York State, especially rural N.Y. this is not news. Poverty has very deep roots in some areas of the State. It is so common place that it is simply ignored on some level as being a given of day to day life. Though the article specifically addresses the childhood issues within N.Y. cities I can tell you as someone who lives in rural N.Y. that the numbers are no less staggering in small town America.

When one talks about poverty there are a few basic necessities that stand front and center in regards to self-preservation. One of those being food. When finances are stable or in excess I suppose that it is easy to occasionally put aside the importance of food but when money is tight or non-existent the true value of food is glaring.

I would like to offer a few suggestions in regards to taking control of your food.

Chickens can provide eggs, meat, and manure
Container Gardening: Access to land is not a given. If that is the case one of the easiest methods to counter this is container gardening. Depending on how much space you have available this can mean growing a number of vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers on your porch or simply growing medicinal and culinary herbs on a sunny window sill. It may produce the least amount of food of all the options but in my opinion some self-sufficiency is better than none at all.

Guerrilla Gardening: If you are like me you have looked at expanses of unused green lawn in public places or have noticed beautifully situated parcels of land in the woods and thought that it was a shame no one was growing food on them. So my suggestion to you is grow something. Depending on your choice of location it may be raided by wildlife or other hungry humans or worse yet vandalized by well meaning city/town employees but why allow such fantastic parcels of land to go to waste?

Foraging: Let's just start by saying if you are unsure of what you have discovered while foraging leave it alone. With that said there are lots of opportunities for healthy foods both wild and domestic. Purslane and plantain grow on most lawns. In my town someone had the foresight to plant pear trees along parking lots in the downtown area. There are blackberry patches in the woods and along walking trails, wild strawberries are available and there are numerous old forgotten apple trees just to give a few examples.
"Wild" food is all around if you only look

Community Garden: In my opinion every neighborhood should have one. It simply does not make sense to ignore such an opportunity. You may have to interact with your local political body to get one started but it is worth the effort. I may also add that I think it is a crime to charge a fee for a community garden. From my perspective it immediately segregates a potential gardener by their income level and those that need it most will miss out on the opportunity for healthy food.

Grow a Garden: Sounds simple right? Well how come so many people prefer endless expanses of lawn rather than edible landscapes? Now I am not talking about people who are physically unable to do so but most people regardless of income are able to grow some of their own food if they have a lawn. If money is truly an issue do not get discouraged by all the catch phrases and expensive toys. You don't need raised beds, though it can be helpful. In fact I build ours out of the stones in the ground, which are free. You don't need every tool on the shelf or new ones for that matter. You can find perfectly good, broken in tools at a serious discount at yard sales and consignment shops if you keep your eyes open.

Homestead: The ultimate in self-sufficiency if you ask me! If you have the space, and believe me it does not take much, try your hand at homesteading. In others words produce as much as you can yourself. Move from consuming to producing. Your level of involvement in the process is up to you. I know people that are far more hands on than my family while I can guarantee we produce a lot more than the average family.

Rabbits provide manure and meat
We raise small livestock on our property. Rabbits for manure and meat. Chickens for eggs and manure. We grow fruit trees, berry bramble and edible flowers. We also cultivate culinary herbs, vegetables and indigenous plants for the beneficial insects and wildlife.

We forage not only for ourselves but our livestock as well. We preserve our harvest and that of local farmers by canning and freezing.

I realize some of these options may be more realistic than others for some. When money is tight it takes some long term vision to accomplish any of the above mentioned. For example we have been homesteading for nearly a decade and are just starting to get into the full swing of things. Be creative, patient and persistent and it will all work out.

On a philosophical note, set the example. I am attempting to cross political and social boundaries when I say that we need to take control of our own lives on some level. The truth is some things may be out of our control but food need not be one of them. Cheap food comes from gardens and window sills if done properly not Walmart shelves. Healthy food is affordable, unlike the items in the health food stores, if grown at home. There are so many options. It just depends on how dirty you want to get your hands, literally. Set up grow lights in a bedroom and grow vegetables in bins if you don't have a lawn. If you have a lawn get rid of it and plant food. I have even had a few elderly people ask me to grow gardens on their property in the past. The options are endless. It truly is in our hands.  

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here 


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