Thursday, February 2, 2012

Shortening the supply chain

In recent months there has been a lot of discussion about the ability of families with children, and low-income households generally, to feed themselves, whether state-funded breakfasts should be provided to children in decile one and two schools, what if any obligation the private sector has to help feed children, all overlapping with discussions about whether that nebulous group known as the poor can afford fresh fruit and vegetables.
Often news sites such as the Herald and Stuff publish readers' comments on these weighty matters, and everyone has an opinion. Eating's something we all do, so we all know everything about it, right? Wrong. An analysis of the complexity involved in people's food choices is the subject of another post but in the meantime we've been thinking about those people - and there's always someone - who argue that the reason kids go hungry and the poor are overweight is because they're too lazy to grow their own vegetables.
Suppose you grow your own veges to supplement the household food supply. It doesn't solve the problem of acquiring protein, ie lean meat; it won't provide bread, rice, potatoes (at least not in sufficient quantities) milk, cheese, or olives; and until they invent the tampon tree and the pooh paper plant, growing your own veges won't solve those problems, either.
But there's another, more fundamental problem with this argument, and that is that it is just plain wrong. One of the things about snooping around the neighbourhood with dogs is that you get to see what people actually do as opposed to what people on blog sites say they do. And in fact there is an astonishing number of gardens shoved away in unlikely places all over the 'hood. Silverbeet and tomatoes in pots, front lawn taro patches, tomatoes in side gardens, you name it, all sorts of people are out there shortening the supply chain between grower and final consumer.
Here's some of our local favourites. Get off the couch and walk around your own neighbourhood. You might be surprised at what you find.  
Excellent small garden at the newly revamped Housing New Zealand flats. Tomatoes, onions, pumpkin and squash, beans and bok choy which miraculously hasn't been chomped by snails.


Beans, corn, tomatoes and a wee shade house in the flats around the corner, all huddled along the side of the building.

 The star of the neighbourhood. Shown are taro, tomatoes, and corn. Out of the photo are beans, kumara, onions and several banana trees.

Sometimes gardens don't provide food, but a small splash of colour to break the monotony of South Auckland's endless dreary cinderblock flats. Whether a few humble flowers or a small terraced vege patch, these gardens give their carers much more than just food.