Changes in our family situation can occur at any time and for any number of reasons, and they may require some quite major changes in how we run our lives. It’s interesting to consider how many of these changes are connected directly with one of our most fundamental needs: food.
A few scenarios probably spring to many people’s minds right away. Health is always a major issue, and it’s not uncommon to have a family member diagnosed with a condition that needs a change in diet – they may discover they have type 2 diabetes, or that they have gluten intolerance or coeliac disease.
Alternatively, one or more members of the family may decide that for health or ethical reasons they wish to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. And of course, in the current uncertain times, the household breadwinner may suddenly find themselves either without a job, or with considerably reduced hours. The family still need to eat, so how do you cope?
One approach which can help in almost all of these situations is to turn to your own back yard. Even if it’s not very big, you can always grow something which helps to provide organically grown, fresh food at minimal cost. Everyone in the family can get involved and help plan how to keep the food bill down, provide the special items that will help in supporting a change in diet, and even get some useful exercise as the garden is converted to a more productive state.
It’s also important to think about how these changes can become more than just a single family operation. It might be a great opportunity to get involved with the neighbours and plan a new approach to local food production which will benefit several families, and maybe even whole streets.
A packet of seeds usually contains vastly more than one garden can use, so maybe start with a seed-sharing scheme. One packet of carrot seeds might keep half the street going! It also means that you can take advantage of different soil types – your neighbour might grow brilliant carrots and your soil might be much better suited to producing cabbages, or potatoes, or lettuces. So a bit of consultation could lead to greatly increased productivity by using a group of gardens and gardening talents.
You might also like to try the idea of a community produce exchange table. This doesn’t need to be anything flash: an old resin picnic table works just fine. Put up a notice, saying that the table is a community resource where people can leave surplus produce (who needs twelve lettuces all at the same time?) and encouraging them to take anything that might be useful to them. It’s important to make it clear that you don’t have to give and take equally – it’s just a way of using up surplus produce and making sure it’s going to a good home. In most streets you’ll find some people have surplus fruit, others grow vegetables and will donate broad beans or lettuces or spinach, and some delight in growing spare seedlings and passing them along.
If you’re feeling really keen, plant a vege garden around the table and have some roadside fruit trees, herbs or vegetables. It’s being done in several places around New Zealand, in ordinary suburban streets. And if you’re in need of company or just a bit of cheering up, going out to work on a vege garden nearly always attracts someone who would like to talk to you about it! Some days, especially if the changes in your family have been difficult ones, that might be the best thing you could wish for.