Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Commiserating Over Cookies - The Food Bank Hamper Challenge on YMMPodcast

Just over a week ago I sat down at a dining room table with some of my favourite people in this community. We weren't sharing a meal, however, but the dining room table setting was very appropriate given what we had met to chat about. You see, we gathered as a group to discuss our experience on the Wood Buffalo Food Bank Food Hamper Challenge - and it was all about food, and the impact of food on our community.

Gathered in the Dining Room Table Studio, as Toddske of YMMPodcast calls it, was Stacey, Jerry, Jen, Toddske, myself, and Arianna Johnson, the executive director of the food bank. Arianna was the one who came up with this challenge idea, and she was the one who had approached us asking for our participation. We were four of the only six people who accepted the challenge (Ashley and Marshall, the other two participants, couldn't make this particular recording session of the podcast). We had all accepted the challenge, and we shared something else in common, too. We had all failed. We had all dropped out and most of us had cheated at some point along the way, too. We had taken the challenge but we had lost, and this podcast is the story of that failure.

There are some amazing moments in the podcast. Hearing about how the lack of good nutrition led to marital discord shows how food, or lack of it, can fundamentally alter relationships. Hearing Stacey's story of why she hates Mr. Noodle dishes, or Toddske's tale of the toilet paper, makes one understand just a little bit more about our complicated relationship with food and household staples. And then there is me (my apologies for my braying laugh and loud voice - I have been told I sound like a donkey on crack on occasion and when I listened to this podcast I realized it's likely true). I talked about having found it so hard to turn down coffee when I met with the mayor, and refusing to dive into the tin of home-baked cookies at a parent council meeting (a tin of cookies I coveted to my core since supper that night had been a much less appealing tin of soup and by the time 7 pm rolled around I was starving. I tell the story of how my own Intrepid Junior Blogger encouraged me to cheat, and about how in the end it was her concern for my health, physical and mental, that helped me make the decision to end the challenge.

The six of us talked for a long time, and we did so, rather ironically, while passing around a tin of cookies baked by Toddske's son Kingston and his grandmother. We sipped our lattes and our beers and our hot chocolate while eating cookies and discussing how the food bank hamper challenge had radically altered our understanding of our personal relationship, and society's relationship, with food. It's a pretty compelling podcast, just as it was a pretty compelling experience. I think every single one of us learned something about food and about what it means to our lives, and I think Toddske and I signed up for something we may well regret. I think we learned a lot about each other that night at the dining room table, and we learned so much about the food bank, the work they do, and their importance. We shared some pretty intimate stories, and one in particular brought me to tears. We sat around a dining room table and we ate cookies and we talked about food, just as people have done since the beginning of time, because in the end we are ALL about food. We talked about something that is as basic to existence as air. We talked about food, and about our relationship with it, and about how it impacts everything in your world, even if you don't realize it. And that's why I would suggest you take the time to listen to the podcast, too. This experience was an eye opener for all of us, but you don't have to take the food hamper challenge to understand it. You can listen to this podcast, and live it vicariously. And trust me - that is a far better way to learn than doing it by finding yourself staring at a can of corned beef and realizing that you are in serious, serious trouble. That's how I learned, but then again, I always do tend to learn things the hard way.

My thanks to
Arianna Johnson
of the
Wood Buffalo Food Bank
for crafting this challenge
and asking us to participate,
and to my fellow participants -
we have shared the road to hell together,
and we know it is paved with soup can labels.

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