Let’s give thanks and eat

By PAT WATSON

This Thanksgiving Day, there are so very many areas of our lives about which we can feel gratitude upon reflection. At this time of year, it is not just the bounties of the harvest and the valuable work of farmers that we are grateful for.

Being in a recession we may have to dig a little deeper, but we can still be grateful for the love and support of those who care for and about us. Despite the daily challenges we face, most of us still have a place to rest at night.

To consider what we have and have been given rather than what we don’t have or are yet to achieve, is the power of thanksgiving.

Yet, if we look at the original celebrations, they were about healthy harvests. The Aboriginal peoples of this part of the world began their thanksgiving tradition long before the rest of us arrived here. They still thank the Creator at harvest time for the food provided by Mother Earth to carry them through the winter to see another spring.

African traditional harvest festivals also abound. In Ghana and Nigeria, for instance, Homowo (Hoot at Hunger) celebrations have already been held for this year, during September, at the time of the yam harvest. Many other African harvest events take place at the end of October and involve offering food in memory of the ancestors, a feast and dancing. And, in the Caribbean, Crop Over and Canboulay have been over for months.

So yes, we are grateful for many blessings but, really, it comes back to being about the food. Thanksgiving Day, being celebrated this Monday, is also called “Turkey Day”, for the customary family feast’s main course.

Even as we celebrate the importance of food at this time, spare a thought for the more than one billion people worldwide – one-sixth of the global population – now facing hunger every day of their lives. Blame the recession. Blame unpredictable weather patterns. Blame wars, famine and a system of exporting crops for cash. India, China, Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia have 65 per cent of the people living in hunger according to the United Nations World Food Program.

Moreover, some of us right here will to have to go to food banks this weekend to have any kind of Thanksgiving ‘feast’ at all because the recession has driven up the numbers of people who cannot afford to feed themselves otherwise, for at least part of the month.

In spite of the rise in the use of food banks here in the West, there is so much food to go around that the health epidemic du jour is obesity. But it is not just an abundance of food that is causing this problem; it is also a result of the kinds of food that are cheapest and therefore most accessible for the poorest people here in Canada, where one in four is considered obese. The usual culprits are processed foods with too much sugar, salt and saturated fats and, in an increasingly automated world, not enough corresponding physical activity to use up all the calories taken in.

But it is even more complex than that. As if racial disadvantaging isn’t enough for Black people, we are being told that the relatively high level of poverty within our population is giving rise to a higher rate of obesity.

From a cultural point of view, all those extra curves may mean there is more of you to love, but the concern is that excess fat can increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and a host of other chronic illnesses, as well as increase healthcare costs. There is already a tone of shaming related to size-ism.

If the negatives about size are not countered it will continue to gain ground as the next big social stigma and you can just guess who will be the easy targets. It would therefore be helpful to hear medical and health researchers reconcile the reality of people carrying what is considered excess poundage, yet are completely healthy and leading active lives, long term. At Thanksgiving we gather for the feast, but how and what we eat is an issue.

On a note of improving legibility…

Now that the Toronto Transit Commission is providing notices on subway platforms about the arrival times of trains, we look forward to the expansion of this service to surface routes, similar to those in Paris or other ‘world class’ cities. One other thing that would be helpful would be to make the notices bigger so they can be visible from either end of the 153-metre long platforms, and not just from 30 metres away.

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