You Can Vote to Change This System Three Times A Day

Thank you to those who were able to make it out to the showing of Food Inc. for Hunger Week. For those of you who do not know about Food Inc., it is a documentary that shows the where out food comes from. It speaks to the issues of meat processing, crop production, healthy food and the power of the food industry.
In our discussion following the film, people were seemingly frustrated with the predicament that faces consumers when it comes to food. This frustration stems from the fact that eating healthy has become such a mystery to people. The options that are readily available for consumption may not be the best for you and although the participants of this discussion identified that this is an issue, a question that came to the forefront of discussion was “how can this be fixed?”

The action steps to relieving this frustration are clouded by a lack of easily accessible information. It became obvious that ignorance was a major issue when it comes to current food issues in our society. Ignorance comes in the form of not knowing how to eat healthy, in the content of the food in grocery stores, and in procedures behind the creation of food. Something that we considered in our discussion was respect within the food industry. This respect spreads across the animals, the workers and the consumer. Each of these aspects plays a pivotal role in the survival of the food industry but not all of them are respected in the process of creating our food. The film, Food Inc., brought this to the attention of the participants of our discussion.

From the argument of information about food, we began to discuss how socioeconomic status plays a role in this issue. People who are able to afford to eat healthy are better able to gain nutritious and healthy food. We began to discuss that the foods that keep us healthy are only available to the people who are able to afford these foods. Food Inc. gave a good example of this issue with a family who had to choose between buying a head of broccoli at the grocery store or a dozen hamburgers for the same price. The healthy choice was clear to the consumer and to the film audience but the family made and interesting and important point, should you buy the item that is healthy, or the item that will fill the stomachs of your family members? Debates like these are brought on by the fact that healthy food is not readily available.

This discussion led us to the idea that we are not going to be able to save the world with our thoughts but action can help! There is the tendency for people to believe that they cannot change the world with their actions because they are just one person. What is most important is that you take the information that you have, learn what you can about how you can implement it into your life and become aware. Learn about where your food comes from and choose for yourself if that is something that you ethically support. There is a quote at the end of Food Inc., “you can vote to change this system three times a day” which is true. Your actions can make a statement. Make sure the statement that you are making is one that you support fully.





Hunger Free Calgary

“What inspired you, Keoma, to work for the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank over these 10 years?”

“What inspires me the most is the potential individuals have” answered Ms. Keoma Duce, program coordinator at the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank. She further elaborated in her response in saying that she believes everyone has potential to do something great if they are supported in the right way at the right time.

In our first event for Hunger Week, we had the honor to hear a presentation by two representatives from the Calgary Food Bank. On the large scale, the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank has helped individuals to pick themselves up through meal supports and also tackling route causes such as substance abuse through referring them to other organizations for further support. Thus, 82% of the clients never revisit the food bank more than three times in their lifetime. Last year, 129,948 families and individuals used the food bank and 42% of their clients are children which is equivalent to having 3 Saddledomes fully seated.

On a smaller scale, Keoma Duce and Nicolle Amyotte also shared a few touching and motivating stories that showed the impacts of the Food Bank on a personal level. In particular, Keoma mentioned that there was young boy that came with his family to the centre for support because of temporary financial difficulties. At the end, the young boy held onto an ordinary muffin and began digging into the muffin with joy. Keoma later realized that the muffin was the boy’s breakfast and lunch. The muffin meant the world to him. In another case, the can of soup that a young boy received after their parent’s divorce gave him hope and motivation for him to volunteer and give back to the food bank 20 years later.


As Keoma concluded, each can of soup could have an impact on another person just like us. Small actions like volunteering or donating few non-perishable items could mean everything to a child who is struggling to eat. Thus, there is a place for everyone to contribute, either big or small. It is the goal of Meal Exchange to raise awareness and rouse action within the upcoming generation that will shape the future of our society. So please come out to attend our other events in the upcoming week. Our next event is tomorrow at 7-9pm where “Food Inc” will be shown and a short discussion will follow.

Test Your Food IQ

Thank you to all of those who stopped by our table in Kinesiology B today to test your Food IQ! It was fantastic to see the amount of enthusiasm University of Calgary students brought to our activity. Students answered questions regarding food security and the importance of having access to healthy, nutritious food. One of my favourite responses to the question: What role does food play in your life besides being a source of fuel for the day?  was “Food brings friends and family together.” I also really appreciated this particular definition of food security: ” Being able to access fresh, healthy, culturally acceptable food on a consistent basis in a socially acceptable manner.” Thanks again to all participants and be sure to check out all of the other awesome Hunger Week events on campus!



2014_Niki_snack_pack 2014_FS_definition




To see more responses, check out the album on our Facebook page!

Just in time for Hunger Week 2014…


After a very long hiatus, our blog is back just in time for our fourth annual Hunger Week in partnership with the Students’ Union and Campus Food Bank. We have a great week of events lined up and hope that you will stop by to check them out! If you have to miss an event, but still want to hear about it, make sure to check the blog for a quick recap.

My Learning Experience at the NSFS 2012

I’m a new to volunteering with the Meal Exchange at U of C this year, so the National Student Food Summit was a great orientation for me.  Not only was I given a fully encompassed understanding of all the components of Meal Exchange, but interacting with other passionate students from across the country spurred my motivation to make a valuable contribution to my campus.  Now that the 2012/2013 academic year has started I’m ready to use the tools and information that I learned at the summit to help plan Trick or Eat, Hunger Week, and create other events with Meal Exchange.  Although I learned a huge range of knowledge, the following three components of the National Student Food Summit really stuck with me, and these experiences will guide my contribution to Meal Exchange this year:

1. Learning about the National Student Food Charter

This component of the summit really connected with what I’ve been learning for two years while pursuing my degree, and as a student, seeing the real-life application of what you’re learning is exciting.

The National Student Food Charter is a document put together by over 400 students across Canada that identifies seven perspectives or values on food insecurity, and it is being introduced to campuses across Canada for the first time this year.  What makes this charter so significant?  It recognizes that a solution for food insecurity requires multiple stakeholders.  It highlights that the most progressive and effective solution will compose of multifaceted perspectives on food insecurity, acknowledging that every perspective has value and every perspective is dependent.  The diagram below shows the seven perspectives:


The arrow diagram illustrates some ways that each perspective are linked to others.  For example: Social Justice as a perspective requires the values of Democratic Governance, Post-Secondary Institutions, Healthy Individuals and Communities, and a Celebration of Food as a Universal Human Experience in order to achieve success.  How?

  • Democratic Governance supports student leadership and decision-making on campus and the inclusion of multiple stakeholders.  Therefore this value is an important means of drawing student attention to social justice issues on campus and within the community, and also gives students connections with stakeholders within the community, which creates a multidisciplinary team.
  • Post-Secondary Institution involvement is necessary because students who are passionate about social justice issues regarding food have a place to use their knowledge to participate in and create programs that aim to engage and educate students on campus about food insecurity.
  • Healthy Individuals and Communities as a value is an important partner to Social Justice because access to healthy food and knowledge of healthy choices is a component of food security.  Forming a partnership between these two values ensures that high standards are set which ensure food insecure people are able to access healthy options.
  • Local Economies can be associated with Social Justice because the working environment of local businesses should be safe and provide fair wages, but the value of local businesses should be respected by society.  The partnership between these two values also sets a standard.

2. Learning about Planning Events and Fundraising

Elissa Hermolin conducted a workshop about General Event Planning and Brock Warner instructed a workshop about Fundraising and Financial Planning, and the knowledge I learned from both really complimented each other.  The General Event Planning workshop was a great atmosphere to learning step-by-step procedures to planning an event.  But what was great about the workshop is that I learned different aspects of event planning that I had never considered, and because of the interactive atmosphere I gained great tips from other students.  In the Fundraising and Financial Planning workshop I learned an entirely different side of non-for-profit organizations.  In this interactive workshop I also came away with a concrete understanding of how to plan a fundraiser and a whole list of fundraising ideas to try on our campus.

3. Learning about Volunteer Recruitment and Student Engagement

I found this session very relevant, because recruiting both short and long-term volunteers is hugely important to any non-for-profit organization.  In this session our presenter Lisa Endersby introduced us to six reasons why people typically volunteer.  I thought this concept was really important to understand because knowing why students on campus volunteer can aid in how you design your volunteer positions.  It was a great way to think about why I volunteer, but also gave me ideas about how I can play a role in getting students interested in volunteering with Meal Exchange.

During the National Student Food Summit I met so many people that gave me new perspectives, I learned immense amounts of knowledge about every aspect of food insecurity, and I developed an understanding of what I want to contribute to my campus this academic year.  The Meal Exchange is definitely something I encourage students to become involved in, especially because with the installation of the National Student Food Charter there is a value for every person’s perspective.  If you want to learn more about the National Student Food Charter and what students across Canada are doing with it visit



My Experience at the National Student Food Summit

The conference attended was called the “National Student Food Summit” and was hosted by Meal Exchange. It was held at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus in Toronto, Ontario. It was a three-day conference held form August 17-19, 2012. The conference was a wealth of knowledge dispersed over a three day period. We started off by discussing the National Student Food Charter established at last year’s conference. This document explores six different aspects of food security including health, social justice, environment, supporting local economies, transparency and participation, and celebration. I always find it astounding how there are so many different perspectives one can take when viewing food security. These various perspectives are why food security is an inter-related and dynamic concept. I have a solid stance on my perspective, social justice, but I found this to be an excellent opportunity to learn a little more about the areas and how they ultimately influence the social justice side of things.

The sessions constituted of student leaders and the ways in which they have implemented various food systems to increase food security within their campus and community. For example the University of Northern BC has a farmers market on campus and Victoria Island University has a community garden with fruit patches, herb gardens and vegetables. They are also establishing a greenhouse, which they would like to use as a venue to kick-start a culinary arts program. I believe that by implementing food systems such as these it will raise awareness about the importance of food within campus and ultimately aide the de-stigmatizing of food banks and other charities that provide food.

In another session Peter Andrée discussed the challenges facing food systems in today’s society. Starting with the environment, for example if the climate dictates a drought there will be a lower yield of crops or if there is a population boom food prices will increase. Or how for the first time this generation is not expected to live longer than their parents – known as the obesity epidemic. The loss of family farms, this issue constitutes people dropping out of agriculture and the loss of skill. The two biggest issues being inequality as more and more people lack access to healthy food outlets and the corporate concentration of food which has resulted in fewer venues for farmers to sell through.

There were also various sessions on learning to love food and setting goals, volunteer recruitment, fundraising, advertising and social innovation. I also had the opportunity to do a presentation myself which was both nerve-wrecking and a great experience. I, along with Parvathy, discussed the concepts of charity, social justice and did a focus example on the SU Campus Food Bank. Each delegate also partook in an experiential learning session. In my case I went to Second Harvest, a food bank that follows a very unique model. They have eight refrigerated trucks “saves” perishable items from restaurants, grocery stores and events where the food may otherwise be thrown out. Of course with a system like this they have very strict food safety and handling protocols. This food is first brought back to Second Harvest and is then re-distributed to agencies (such as shelters and food banks) where it is dispersed to clients. The uniqueness and brilliance of this system just blew me away. They are saving so much food this way!

Those are just a few of my highlights and a bit of the knowledge I was able to gain by attending the conference. Going into the experience I had set three goals for myself and in reflection I’m certain I have met all three to some extent.

As one of the volunteer coordinators for the SU Campus Food Bank I was hoping to find program ideas that might save students a few bucks. At the CFB we are currently doing research into breakfast programs at other campuses and I was lucky enough to meet the Food Bank (and breakfast program!) coordinator at the University of Ottawa. I ceased this as an opportunity to learn what worked for them and what didn’t. I also met many other Food Bank coordinators and was able to gain some insight into their programs and how we can improve ours.

As a Meal Exchange executive I wanted to learn more about other chapters and what they have been up to in the past year. I did learn a little about how other chapters ran events such as Trick or Eat and what else their chapter does but not as many details as I would have liked.

My last goal was to broaden my perspective on food security. The conference not only met this goal but surpassed it. By learning about the National Student Food Charter I realized that there are more than two perspectives when it comes to food security and that each one is important in its own way. One of my other favorite sessions was by Joshna Maharaj who placed emphasis on the celebration of food and how you should love your food every day (= LYFE). I couldn’t agree more and if I had to sum up the conference in one word I would pick LYFE.
Cheers for now!


National Hunger Awareness Week!

As you all know, we hosted Hunger Week here at the UofC March 19-23rd, but did you know that May 7-11 is National Hunger Awareness Week? Check out Food Banks Canada’s website to learn more about what they do, read up on the latest Hunger Count or visit the Hunger Awareness Week website for resources, how to host a “lunch in” and to test your hunger knowledge.

Also be sure to check out Meal Exchange’s initiative to find 24 MX supporters who will each rally 24 supporters of their own and together raise over $7000. For more information or to donate, click here.

Hunger Week Day 5: Ask a Foodie Friday!

The final day of Hunger Week 2012, brought back (by popular demand!) two of our favourite foodies from Hunger Week 2011: Dr. Dawn Johnston & Lisa Stowe, both professors in the department of Communication & Culture and proclaimed foodies. Dawn & Lisa co-teach COMS 401: Food Culture course as well as a three week group travel study to Spain focused on Spanish Food & Culture (yeah, that’s right. You can get course credit for traveling and eating) and have a fair number of Michellan Stared restaurants under their belts. Dawn is even a member of the Calgary Food Committee.

Last year, both Dawn & Lisa participated in “The Hamper Project” in which 8 members of the Campus Community (students, staff and professors alike) did their best to live off the contents of a Campus Food Bank food hamper and blogged about their experiences. Often sharing their recipes or meal inspirations, in their humourous yet openly honest blog posts, we thought they would be the perfect way to conclude the week sharing some of their inspired recipes.

The event took place in That Empty Space over the lunch hour. Unfortunately due to certain licensing restrictions, we weren’t actually allowed to cook in the space, so there was a lot of improvising and food tv quality magic that took place.  All audience members were then invited up to the Centre for Community-Engaged Learning for a taste test post event. The food was devoured so quickly we didn’t get any pictures of the final testing.

Happy Cooking Dance

Dawn (left) was so excited for the cooking demonstration, she started to dance. Well, not actually but it sure looks like she was excited.


Lisa busy chopping

The first demonstration was that to cook and stuff a whole chicken. It actually looks a lot simpler than you might imagine. Lisa was busy chopping onions to mix with the butter, herbs and white bread cubes. (Dawn’s cooking rule # 1: Stuffing aka “dressing” if you are from Newfoundland, is the ONLY time white bread should ever be purchased. Someone from the audience asked if they could use homemade bread, which she agreed would be delicious).

"You just need to get over yourself"

Dawn admitted that the first time she cooked a whole raw chicken, she was terrified to touch it, but then said “eventually you just have to get over yourself.” Tackle that chicken and it’s deliciousness will be all worth it.

Loosening the skin from the chicken

After you have your herb butter rub (a bit of softened butter with some chopped herbs mixed in) and stuffing made. It is time to tackle the chicken! Gently stick your fingers between the skin and the flesh of the chicken and work your way up it’s back until the skin has been released. Go slowly and carefully so not to puncture the skin. You then want to massage the chicken (between the flesh and the skin) with the herb butter. Sticking slices of lemon, garlic or other herbs in here will also make it very delicious.

 Dawn’s cooking rule #2: Always use butter not margarine. Not only is it better for you, but it tastes a million times better.

Chicken cavity!

Final product! Delicious chicken and roast vegetables

The final product! A delicious well cooked chicken with roast vegetables. A relatively easy, yet very impressive meal for any company. You can then eat the chicken for several days after and don’t forget! You can make a delicious stock and chicken soup with the bones.

*Special Note: remember when you are working with raw chicken (or any other raw meat) WASH YOUR HANDS! It is EXTREMELY important to wash your hands and any utensils (knives, cutting boards etc) often and well to prevent contamination and food poisoning. 



Getting ready to brown the beef on a makeshift stove top

Next up on the menu, was to create a delicious beef and Guinness stew which can stew away in a crock pot all day while you are studying/at school/work etc. Dawn & Lisa shared the trick to browning your beef is to coat each slice in seasoned flour (flour with a dash of salt & pepper or anything else you like). This way, when you add it to the pan of hot oil it will brown up nicely. Make sure not to put in too many pieces at once.

De-glazing the pan

Once you have finished cooking all of the meat, there will probably be little bits of deliciousness stuck to the pan. It would be a shame to waste these, so it is important you do something called “de-glaze” the pan. This is where you pour a bit of liquid into the pan (in this case Guinness, but you can use wine, stock etc) and then use your wooden spoon to stir the liquid and dislodge all of the good beef bits from the pan.

Dawn’s cooking rule #3: Only use for cooking what you would drink when it comes to beer or wine. You don’t have to get the most expensive kind, there are some that are cheap and delicious, but if you don’t like it on it’s own, chances are you won’t like it in your food.

Beef & Guinness Stew Recipe

(Click to enlarge to see full recipe)

Using a mandolin

A mandolin is a cook kitchen tool that will help you to slice food thinly and quickly. It comes with different attachments for different types of cutting. Mandolins range in price, but cheap ones work just as well as more expensive ones. You can easily get one for $15 on-line or at a cooking store.


Talking about the inspiration for "Flan de Naranja" (aka Orange Flan)

The last recipe that was demonstrated was a delicious and simple dessert that Lisa stumbled upon and adapted near the end of her participation in “The Hamper Project.” To see the original recipe click here.

Preparing the final touches

Dawn, anxious for dessert

Preparing the "bain-marie"

The flan, like any custard/cheesecake etc needs to be cooked in a “bain-marie” aka water bath. Once your ramekins are filled with the liquid mixture, place them in a towel lined baking dish. The towel will prevent the ramekins from sliding around in the pan. Then fill the pan with boiling water until about 3/4 the way up the ramekins. As they bake in the oven, the water will evaporate and the steam will keep the flan deliciously moist.

Releasing the flan

Once the flan is cooked, use a knife and gently scrape down the edges of the ramekin to help release the flan.


After you have loosened the flan, you can take and plate and put it face down on top of the ramekin. Then flip it over together, pull of the ramekin, et voila! You have a beautiful and delicious flan.

And that was the end of the cooking demonstration! Big thank you to Dawn & Lisa for all of their recipes, tips and tricks AND their delicious samples! They were enjoyed by all.

Finally for those of you who are wondering about the stylish aprons they are both wearing, “Spooning and Forking” is a FOOD radio show on CJSW hosted by two of Dawn & Lisa’s Spain: Food & Culture alumni. It is a great show, (really how could any show about food not be?) that airs Tuesday mornings and older shows can be downloaded for free from their website. Listen in one day, but be careful because you might start to drool or have the sudden urge for some late night street eats or to start eating locally!

Hunger Week Day 4: Dirt To Dinner

It is not a hidden fact that urbanization is rapidly increasing thus with that food production locally decreasing there is an evident food security issue. Furthermore, in North America meat and dairy products receive 73% of subsidies making it cheaper to purchase unhealthy foods like a  Big Mac than a salad. All this is leading us towards more food insecurity. However, do not worry there is hope through things like backyard gardens and hydroponics and essentially localizing our food sources. Now the question is how well the presentation by Scott Weir a very involved member on our campus community and an individual with a lot of passion for urban agriculture answered this for the Thursday’s session.

Scott taught easy ways to grow greens to feed yourself. You might think this is hard but according to Scott if we could do it during a war it is definitely possible now. With that cleared the next question in all of your minds is for sure we live in Calgary how is that possible well Scott outlined some solutions one being preserves and canning, with no lack of sunlight Calgary has potential for green houses however the most self-sufficient way is growing Hydroponics and Microgreen systems.

How to grow microgreens:

1. Soak seeds 1-2. You can get them from mums in Saskatoon it has free shipping as well.

Next spread seeds on a grow pad and damp it and put a dome with the air coming in a little from open circles on top of it. Then put it in dark for a couple of days.

Then put it in a tray with holes and then dip it in another tray soak it and then remove it and may be once a day or so and as soon as it sprouts put T5 lights and Scott grew wheat in 3 days and can harvest in 7 days with a little power usage. Enjoy.

Hydroponics: quick easy to grow anything but root veggies.

Nutrients and ph kit can get from any garden store

What you need:

-Tupperware container of your choice

-Fish tank pump and bubbler

- Piece of scrap Styrofoam

- Grow cube

-Seeds of your choice

- Some form of nutrients

-A cheap PH. Kit


- Tray: soak seed and put in the grow tube and when it sprouts put it in the

hydroponic system.

- Place them in the floating Styrofoam system where water in a Tupperware container and the light- it should look like a raft floating system.

-Nutrients and water drain once a week ideally and replenish again. – Get nutrient solution and use as prescribed on it.

- The bubbler to aerates the water optimizing it to grow quickly. Connect timer if you want to aerate and light at least for 12 hours.

-Use T5 low in power and not heat generating.

-  Cut the big leaves and leave small they will grow.

- Scott used 16 lettuce heads for 4 months so it is worth investing in this low-maintenance but awesome system.

And grow things you want when you can’t get them from outside.

Therefore enjoy growing your own food and also Thank you Scott Weir for all this valuable knowledge.


Scott explaining why a salad costs more than a Big Mac with our current food system.

British War propaganda used to encourage gardening and urban food production

How to grow MicroGreens

Basics of Hydroponics

An old tupperware container, a faucet, a knife and some hot glue are all you need to set up a basic hydroponic contraption.

Scott and Niky (MX team member) showing off 3 day old micro greens. (Niky is also sporting a shirt from Our School at Blair Grocery, an alternative school in New Orleans)


Hunger Week Day 3: Volunteer Ventures

Day 3 of Hunger Week saw groups of students go out into the community and give back in a food related way. We had two groups of students go to the Mustard Seed to help prepare and serve dinner to their program guests, a group of students stayed on campus and made sandwiches with Spread the Love and a final group went to the alex Community Health Centre to prepare bagged lunches.

Here is what Jack, one of the student volunteers, had to say about his experience at the alex:

On Wednesday March 21, 2012 I was given the wonderful experience of volunteering with The Alex in Calgary. The Alex is a community health clinic located at 100-1318 Centre St NE that seeks to provide health and wellness to  people with low income. It has grown to include many more aspects health than just providing a doctor; they also provide a safe place for youths to spend their time in a safe environment as well as access to a counselor. Today I spent my morning making sandwiches for this program. There was a miscommunication and the coordinator who did not know we were coming. This didn’t stop her from allowing us to join in on the sandwich making with four men from Prospect, a local day group for people with disabilities. They usually make the sandwiches Mondays and Wednesdays as a way of gaining volunteer experience for their resumes. This experience was very interesting as it showed me that a place acting as a simple health clinic can serve many more purposes in the community. I also learned a lot about the kind of programs they run and am interested in volunteering with their spinner program that makes hampers for people.



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