Nancyeclark's Blog


waste not,want not…A food rant

That proverb, waste not, want not means If we don’t waste what we have, we’ll still have it in the future and will not lack or want it.

I learned this from my grandmother. My grandmother lived through the depression and was a farmer’s wife; she knew how to take care of precious things so they would last into the next generation. She knew how to re-use and recycle. She knew that helping your neighbour was the right thing to do and that if you had food you were lucky and if you had more than you needed, you shared it with those that didn’t. She is the reason I have boxes of all sizes in my closet, why I keep a collection of used ribbon and wrapping paper, why I have recycling embedded in my soul and leftovers in the fridge. She is the reason I do not like throwing anything out and feel so out of step with today’s world where everything seems disposable; appliances, pets, people and food.

My grandmother would be appalled at the waste in our world. When she grew up, things like oranges were special because they only appeared in the store once a year, and if her Mum & Dad were doing well enough, she would enjoy one in her Christmas stocking. You ate seasonally…the things you grew or the things in the store that were available during growing season.

Now we have food from all over the world  and in huge piles in our stores. If you could see how much of that food is wasted, you would understand my pain.

Hundreds of pounds of meat, cheese, frozen food, produce, thrown into dumpsters every day. Produce that isn’t perfect, so it is not saleable…food close or at it’s expiry date…things like bananas or meat someone decided they did not want partway through their shopping and so left it in the cereal aisle to rot. There is more food in our stores than they can actually sell…it is to produce an effect, a display of plenty…to make you buy.

“Studies have shown that 63 percent of the average supermarket’s waste is food. . In California alone, more than six million tons of food products are dumped annually. An estimated $20 billion worth of food is thrown away each year by supermarkets. Stores in the U.S. waste twice as much food annually as those in Europe, and a recent U.N. report found that total American food waste—including what we pitch from our refrigerators—is worth $48 billion each year.
Although federal and state laws protect grocers from liability, many stores expressed concerns that donated food could sicken recipients, even if it has yet to reach its expiration date. While some major chains donate food, others do not. Major retail grocery chains are more likely to throw away fruits, vegetables and even entire hams and roasts than donate to distribution centers.”

But it is not just stores…40 % of food waste occurred in our homes.

“Every month, residents in the city of Toronto (Canada), toss out 17.5 million kilograms of food. A recent British study determined that about one-third of food purchased in the UK is thrown out every year. This equates to £10bn (about CDN$19.5 billion). A 1997 U.S. study found that 27 per cent of edible food is never eaten. In Toronto, the picture is not all that different: single-family households produce an average of 275 kilograms of food waste each year. Twenty-five per cent of this food goes into the garbage. Most of it edible. Much of it still in its original packaging.” Worldvision

The problem is, that we are consumers and wasters of food, and yet we allow so many in our world to go hungry. And there are rules and standards that sometimes prevent us from helping. At a fundraiser I attended a while back, there was a large amount of food left over, good, well made, nutritious food…enough to give to the local food bank for several family’s meals…untouched food, but the containers had been opened, although not used. Because they had been opened…we were not allowed to give the food away, it had to be thrown away. It killed me to see so much food go to waste. I suppose I understand the concerns over opened containers, but we all knew it had not been touched or spoiled or contaminated in any way, and it hurt, physically hurt, to know it was wasted.

It hurts me to think about wasted food…and hungry people right here, in my backyard.

It hurts to know there are people dying from the lack of decent, nutritious food the world over…particularly in the Horn of Africa…one of the worst hit places by famine on our planet.

“The world produces enough food to feed every man, woman and child on earth. Hunger and malnutrition therefore are not due to lack of food alone, but are also the consequences of poverty, inequality and misplaced priorities.” – UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Kul C. Gautam

And yet, 30,000 children have died in the last 3 months in the Horn of Africa.

And yet, famine exists….what is famine?

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Reference Table (the standard used by the UN), famine occurs when the first three of the following conditions occur:

  • 20 percent of population has fewer than 2,100 kilocalories of food a day
  • 30 percent of children are acutely malnourished
  • Two deaths per 10,000 people, or four deaths per 10,000 children per day
  • Pandemic illness
  • Access to less than four liters of water per day
  • Large-scale displacement
  • Civil strife
  • Complete loss of assets and source of income

There are places still on this earth, where famine and drought exist, where the first three conditions exist, where all conditions exist, and people are dying from lack of food and clean water. It is obscene, when so many have so much, that so many have nothing.

The F Word

We see the bounty (and so much waste) in our stores and are bombarded by advertising for fast food and we do not know what it is like to be hungry, homeless and constantly at risk…we send food aid to countries without realizing that much of what we send is nutritionally deficient, particularly for children. We saddle poorer countries with so much debt they can never get out from under. We can and do so many good things…but there is so much more a species so intelligent and creative could carry out…needs to accomplish. We need to reconnect with our planet and the people on it, or we will never care enough to bring about the changes that must be made to save ourselves from ourselves.

Canada sends food aid around the world…so do many other countries…and that is a good thing…partly. So much of what we send is doing so little for the children who are starving, because what we send is nutritionally deficient and even with our help, children are malnourished and face the effects of that immediately and throughout their lives.

“Diets that do not provide the right blend of high-quality protein, essential fats, carbohydrates,vitamins and minerals can impair growth and development, increase the risk of death from common childhood illness, or result in life-long health consequences. Yet the cereal-based fortified flours donated as food aid do not meet these basic nutritional standards.

The Starved for Attention campaign hopes to rewrite the story of malnutrition, by convincing governments to ensure food aid also targets the specific needs of young children with adequate nutritional products.”

MSF, Medecins sans Frontieres or  Doctors Without Borders has launched a campaign, Starved for Attention, to try to ensure that world food aid actually nourishes and helps children who are starving. You can find out more at their website…

MSF Doctors Without Borders

Famine is obscene…so is the massive waste of food in richer countries.We need to do so much more for hungry people, here in our own country, on our own doorstep, and in our “global village”. We are responsible on every level, from what we buy and where we shop and what we waste right through to our neighbours and neighbouring countries to those who live a world away…they are on our global doorstep after all.

I really do think one of the reasons for humankind’s lack of stewardship of our planet, our technological advancement at the cost of something deeper and more meaningful, the problems we face as a species, are brought on, partly at least, by the continued urbanization of and lack of connection with nature. We live more and more, in places where you cannot see the stars, where you cannot truly see and feel the seasons, where foods are available year round from far, far away instead of being seasonal and local, where children do not know where their food comes from, what growing vegetables look like, who have never met a cow. We isolate ourselves further and further from our own world, the planet that nurtures us and which we rape and pillage daily. If we grow up knowing only that food comes from a store, how do we care about what it costs to produce it, how do we care about the loss of the family farm to huge conglomerates, how do we care about the death of honey bees, or the cruelty to the animals we eat or the underpaid workers who harvest our coffee and other crops. If gas just comes from a pump…how do we care about a faraway oil spill, the toxic waste in Alberta or Ecuador…the cost to our oceans and marine life…to our air and climate?

Even with the internet and television there are too many people who do not seem to care that children are dying from hunger and thirst in a world that has more than enough food and water for all. We demand that our food be available at all times and in huge supply and not too expensive. We consume far too much of the world’s supply of food, resources, and water. It is time to re-think our ways.

Take a moment or two today (and every day) to assess your own habits, to open your eyes to the plight of the hungry. Follow a link, read about hunger…look at the faces of the children…and of the parents who would provide if they could, but instead see their children starve. Sign a petition…write a letter…make a donation.

Waste is obscene. Famine is obscene…allow yourself to be disgusted…and then add your voice to all those hungering for change…and help.

Please get involved. Now, before it is too late for one more child.



Keiko

DSCF0401 She was probably doomed from the start, but she did not seem to care and tried so hard to have a life and grow and become a cat…but we lost her and it broke my heart. Into tiny little pieces…that will, I am sure, eventually fit back together, but there will be a lot of scar tissue.

Keiko was one of four kittens born to Julia, a foster mum from the OSPCA. Tiny and beautiful they were. There was Mighty Mouse, the runt, a little grey and white fighter; Thor, a big black boy who seemed to have odd feet and skeletal issues and then the two sisters, Youko and Keiko, both white with lilac points. When we got them home they seemed fine and Mum seemed fine too, but it quickly became apparent that Julia, although gorgeous and sweet and loving, had no clue about being a mum…there are some cats that should never be mums…too young, too whatever. She would nurse her babies briefly and then walk away, leaving the kittens to get cold and lonely…and if we left her alone in the room with them, she would carry them around and deposit them in strange corners and leave them alone on the floor. As soon as we realized this, within hours, we began by putting a heating pad under their bin and adding hot water bottles to keep them warm, keeping the door to their carrier closed so Julia could not scatter them, and every hour or so, put her in with them to nurse and clean them. She was great with them for a while each time and then yell and claw to get out. The kittens also developed diarrhea almost immediately and it became clear we had four very sick kittens…but they were kept warm and clean and dry and nursed well when given their mum or a bottle, and seemed even with their issues to be doing okay…no dehydration…and with food peacefully asleep. I spent hours and hours with them, watching, stroking mum so she would nurse, cleaning them and their towels, changing hot water bottles, moving mum in and out, experimenting to see if she would stay without being locked in with them, trying to see if she would leave them together in one spot, praying and worrying, supplementing with formula…then one day…checking in on the nursing babies, all seemed fine, when I realized Mighty Mouse could not be seen amongst the pile…I found him under his mother, smothered by Mum lying on him…he was flat and still and flaccid and not breathing and I panicked and rubbed and stroked him and breathed on him and called the shelter and finally he coughed and his chest started moving again…all of which may have been a bad decision in hindsight because although he seemed to recover he succumbed to the struggle of life a few days later and we had him put to sleep. He simply got too tired, and I probably should have let him die and be peaceful when it happened…but instinct made me try without thinking. Thor, the big, black, hungry boy became much sicker a few days later in the space of a couple of hours, and at 5 am on a Sunday, we heard him begin to cry in distress and had to make the heartbreaking decision to have him put to sleep too. So we were left with Keiko and Youko…the two white sisters…still sick but as far as we could tell…happy with each other and not suffering. Julia was still a lousy mum so we kept them warm…and as clean as we could, continued supplementing their diet and they slowly began to grow and get better. They changed from white to cream…Youko with lilac ears and tail, Keiko with dark points on face, ears, paws and tail…simply beautiful kittens…with sweet tempers and good appetites. The diarrhea stopped, but as the days went by…you could see that the diarrhea, the virus, whatever had made them sick,  had caused Keiko to have growth and development issues…Youko soon out paced her in size and strength. Keiko’s problems became more apparent, possibly from mal-absorption of nutrients through the diarrhea, possibly congenital, she grew a little and regained her hair from the urine scald she suffered even with constant cleaning, but she stayed  small and her legs did not work as well as they should..her front legs bowed a bit and occasionally knuckled over…her back legs did not seem to have as much flexibility and feeling as they should…but she kept trying…playing with her sister, eating well, beginning to try out toys…purring  and cuddling… and then came the breathing issues. She began having trouble  breathing after eating and although her teeth were coming in (in that tiny mouth) and she began eating a bit of solid food…she began to be unhappy and we took her to the vet to see if there were any hope of recovery, growth and development. The consensus of the vets was that she was going to have too much suffering to let her continue…perhaps if she had not had trouble with her breathing she might have had a chance…but with the new breathing issues it was unfair to let her struggle for each breath…and the shelter totally agreed and put her to sleep…which did not go well and will haunt me ‘til the day i die…Keiko…with all her problems, did not go quietly and I will never get over the fact that for a short while I was responsible for intense fear and suffering in a kitten so small and innocent. I know from experience that euthanasia does not always go smoothly…but this one, although necessary, will haunt me, will haunt my dreams forever. No one’s fault, just one of those things, but still…..

I will always remember Keiko’s ability to motor across the floor with a speed that amazed me…she would come running as soon as she heard me at the door to her room. I will remember her tiny dark paws that held the bottle so tightly, her eyes so bright, her wee cream face and dark nose looking up at me, her tiny body pressed close to my heart as I fed her, her patience as I cleaned her, her first use of the litter box, her first enjoyment of kitten food, her favourite toy (a tiny white coil), her absolutely fierce will to be normal and play with her sister…I will remember every minute I had with a kitten so challenged and so happy (until she could not breathe) and so beautiful…with awe and respect and admiration and gladness and sadness…Keiko will be with me forever…although she only lived with me for a few weeks.

And I will question myself and my decisions, and learn from the experience, compassion and knowledge of the wonderful people at the OSPCA, of the wonderful vets, and grow in knowledge about how to deal with sickness and death in creatures so small and innocent and beautiful…I would like one day to be more sure of decisions made and roads taken. Having had a run of success with foster kittens…Julia’s litter has taught me so much about the other side of fostering…the heartbreaking side. I can only hope the decisions I made hourly, did not cause any suffering that could have been avoided…I watched so closely for any signs of discomfort, any signs that they were unhappy, and I wanted so much to give them a chance at life…that I profoundly hope that the life they had was not an unhappy one. If anything I did caused them pain or sadness I will never forgive myself…Mighty Mouse, Thor and particularly Keiko, will have me looking inward and pondering and questioning and asking always…Am I doing the right thing??…Am I doing the right thing for them or for me???…How do you ever know for sure that giving anyone or anything a chance of life, a chance of recovery is the right thing to do????

Keiko …’Kei’  means ‘celebrate’, ‘respect’, and ‘open’  and is combined with ‘ko’ which means child…has taught me to respect life, be open to possibilities and open to learning, and I will always celebrate her life…she touched my heart and soul so deeply and profoundly that I will never be the same person I was before I met her.  Keiko, so tiny, so beautiful, will live forever. And I hope, forgive me if ever I hurt her…even if only with good intentions.



Mighty Mouse & Thor

Mighty Mouse died. On a Tuesday. Euthanized because he struggled too long and exhausted his energy. One minute a tiny grey and white fighter, a suckling champ…the next second too exhausted to do anything except sleep. He was the runt, he was sick, along with his brothers and sisters, his mum was inattentive and she lay on him, flattened him and he stopped breathing. Instinctively I fought for him, called Lisa at the shelter in a panic about him, rubbed and stroked and breathed on him and got him breathing again….perhaps the wrong decision in hindsight…but I did not see the future reality…only the hope and immediate need. A few days later he tired of trying to grow and develop. Thor went the same way this morning…he was doing alright on Saturday afternoon and through the evening, … fighting for his nipple, getting extra formula, purring, curled up with his littermates on mums belly and a hot water bottle when she left…bright eyed and strong and black, although certainly not well.…sick but working on it and happy. Lord how kittens can turn around in a heartbeat. By 130 am on Sunday  I was less happy about him, something was not quite right..but not critical, and he was still nursing, so I grabbed a couple of hours sleep, checked on him at 4am and immediately realized it was all wrong and he had become very sick indeed. All of a sudden he was in pain and congested and would or could not suckle…in the space of a couple of minutes we made the the decision to have him put to sleep, to end his fight and suffering. 5am on a Sunday morning…thank god for the Emergency vet clinic and their wonderful staff. The shelter was not open to call, so we took Thor to Kingston, snuggled to my breast, tired and quiet,  and there we had him put to sleep, gently and kindly by the doctor with me stroking him as he died. Just like Mighty Mouse he had gone from fighter to giving up the struggle in minutes, so fast it was hard to believe.

Maybe when they first got sick I should have asked to have them all put to sleep…but as they seemed happy except for the diarrhea; trying hard, suckling and getting extra bottle feeds…I wanted to give Julia’s 4 kittens a fighting chance. But fostering cats and kittens, either on your own or for the OSPCA or local shelter is heartbreaking and totally unpredictable. It is also heart warming and joyful. Babies in particular suffer sea changes in health in the space of minutes and hours…like visiting a friend in hospital, talking to them, seeing them rallying from illness or injury, hopeful: and and then hours later you get a call that they have passed away. Like my mum in June, seemingly doing well and recovering in the CSU from cardiogenic shock and everyone is guardedly hopeful, she is conscious, eating, talking and then, Wham, her heart stops and all hell breaks loose.

There are two kittens left with Julia…two tiny creamy babies just 3 weeks old…and I know that even if we get a non-thriving kitten to 4 weeks…it can all blow up in your face at any time…but how can I look at these two, small and eating hard, learning to stumble further around their nesting spot each day, getting their sea legs,  and not let them have a chance. They seem happy and content…no pain that I can detect…they are warm and fed and dry and I find I cannot give up on them. Maybe that is wrong…maybe it would be kinder and less heartbreaking and more cost effective to just put them to sleep now…but I cannot do it…and perhaps this means I am not a good foster parent and may never be a good person to work at a shelter…but I am not yet good or fast at making this kind of decision…although I am sure I will learn to do so. It is always, I think, a struggle to do the right thing, to hold on for them, and not for you, to give them a chance, but not prolong any suffering…to learn to look at a baby and say it would be better for you not to have to fight to survive. I can only hope I am doing the right thing…by doing what seems right, what feels right…but how do you know..how do you sleep…how do you not have doubts and questions…regrets and fears??? Why is doing what you think is the right thing so damn hard????

Up until Julia and her 4 babies, now 2, we have had a wonderful run of success in fostering…6 mums and babies…all have found homes…but Julia, Mighty Mouse and Thor have me totally questioning my abilities and my judgment…this is perhaps the question all animal people, all pet people have to face…when do you give up..how much is too much??? Is the decision you are making the right one for you or for them????