Recent Publications

How Home Food Delivery for the Elderly Strengthens Communities

By Lindsay Abrams
Reducing the demand for costly nursing home living can come down to a hot meal. 8167721319_0e4d526eb1_z615.jpg Wickerfurniture/Flickr When older adults are moved into nursing homes too soon, it doesn't just mean excess health care spending -- it means that communities are in many ways losing touch with important members who, with only a little bit of help, could still be living independently.  A new study out of Brown University quantified how simple it can be to keep this from happening. For every $25 more per person annually that states contribute to delivering meals to seniors, it found, they can reduce the number of people in nursing homes who don't require most of the homes' services by one percent. So not only is it better for the community, it can be financially advantageous. Health of a Nation bug Medical providers, local communities, and the public wellness movement. See full coverage There are a lot of nursing home residents who fit this bill. In 2009, 12.6 percent qualified as "low-care," meaning they don't need 24-hour assistance. Services like Meals on Wheels -- which delivers prepared food to people who face food uncertainty or who no longer retain the ability to cook for themselves -- is a community-based way of ensuring that low-care senior citizens' basic needs are met without removing them prematurely form their homes. In 2010, meal-delivery services reached 868,000 Americans.  Kali Thomas, a post-doctoral research fellow at Brown and the study's lead author, based her analysis on annual program reports, taking into account Medicaid spending, nursing home capacity, and other factors. But the impetus for the project came from her own anecdotal evidence that Meals on Wheels is worth investing in: her own grandmother was able to live out her life independently, in her own home, before passing away last month at the age of 98. Thomas attributes the daily delivery of meals -- along, of course, with her grandmother's vivacity -- to this being able to happen. The Administration for Community Living, which encompasses the former Administration on Aging, was created by the federal government this past April with a similar mission: "All Americans -- including people with disabilities and seniors -- should be able to live at home with the supports they need, participating in communities that value their contributions -- rather than in nursing homes or other institutions." Meal-delivery programs initiated in Congress, under the guidelines of the Older Americans Act (OAA), but states are responsible for the majority of the funding. Thomas' study concluded that meal delivery was the only OAA service that affected the rate of low-care seniors stuck unnecessarily in nursing homes from state to state. In what Thomas described as a kind of secondary service, meal delivery helps to keep senior citizens connected, with the person bringing them food -- usually a volunteer -- serving as a social contact. "A number of volunteers are actually older adults themselves," said Thomas. "So there's this really neat aspect of older adults helping other older adults." And the program ensures that living independently doesn't mean that people are left entirely on their own. The morning of the day we spoke, Thomas, herself a Meals on Wheels volunteer, noticed that someone on her usual route seemed unwell. Having been around often enough to know that something was wrong, she able to alert that person's family and get them the help they now needed. In the place of costly interventions, what it comes down to is neighbors becoming responsible for neighbors.      

Kitchener-Waterloo Cohousing

Interested in building your own community?
                    Instead of buying your next home from a developer that has laid out the plan for your future community before any resident had a chance to give any input, imagine you were able to get together with like minded people and plan your own neighbourhood community! “A cohousing community is a type of intentional community composed of private homes supplemented by shared facilities. The community is planned, owned and managed by the residents – who also share activities which may include cooking, dining, child care, gardening, and governance of the community. Common facilities may include a kitchen, dining room, laundry, child care facilities, offices, internet access, guest rooms, and recreational features. Cohousing facilitates interaction among neighbors for social, practical benefits, economic and environmental benefit.”
- Cohousing communities have been developed in Canada, United States, and of course Denmark where this all started a few decades ago. Are you interested in beginning an owner-occupied cohousing community in the Waterloo Region in Ontario? I sure am! A little about me: My husband and I live in a new subdivision close to Ira Needles for the past three years. It’s difficult to socialize and get to know our neighbours because the modern way subdivisions are build do not foster an environment for healthy social communities. Since our daughter’s arrival we are reevaluating what is important to us and the way we would like to live. Cohousing has the characteristics of a neighbourhood we would love to live in and we are hoping to meet other local interested people to get a project like this off the ground. This owner occupied community between 12 and 36 dwellings could share common facilities and amenities such as kids play area, a community garden, a maintenance/tool room, guest room, recreation features and potentially a lot more. The purpose to develop this intentional community is to foster a safe and friendly community through participation in community events such as dining together in the common house, movie nights, play dates, gardening and casual conversations in the neighbourhood. Perhaps we can even arrange for this project to have an organic farm, or green energy generation such as solar power and wind turbines. If you are interested in this opportunity, please contact me at visit the website at or please email me at so that we can gauge the local interest and network a group of interested people together to start the planning process. Cheers,

What Community Means to Me

Community is a hard thing to define; just like almost everything else, as everyone has different conceptions and experiences. To me, community is a shared environment in which we all experience similar phenomena. This pheonomena could be anything from a thunder storm to a hard essay topic in a classroom. To me, my community is my University (the University of Guelph), and the city of Guelph, as these are both where I am geograpically (the concept of scale and proximity) and mentally (slaving away at a computer for days on end trying to earn a flimsy piece of paper).  Shared experiences unite people, as we are social creatures. Being in a similar area or circumstance gives a sense of empathy in others, using the previous example of a rainstorm we may look at others with mutual scowls of dispair at the giant puddles blocking our path.  This is my definition of community: a shared experience. 

A Model for Community Change

By: Larry Brigham
A simple, yet profound model on Community Change by Larry Brigham.

Transition and Community

                    We’re facing some pretty serious challenges, as a society and as a species, that will be come increasingly manifest over the next couple of decades, and how we respond to those challenges are going to do no less than determine the future of the human race. The climate is changing rapidly, and its impacts on the global food system are still largely unknown, but aren’t likely to be good. Our global economy runs on cheap energy, and cheap energy is disappearing, along with many other non-renewable resources we’ve come to depend on. When energy is abundant and cheap, the economy grows, when it’s scarce and expensive, the economy grinds to a halt like a car stuck in mud. And the cheap stuff is disappearing rapidly. This is all going to put increasing economic pressure on our society in the coming years. We can expect some pretty deep recessions, followed by partial recoveries, followed by more recessions, in a kind of saw-tooth descent graph. Bill McKibben, David Suzuki and others have said that the planet that we, as a species, grew up on doesn’t exist any more, and the planet we have inherited and will be passing on to the next generation is a significantly more unpredictable, and more hostile place. The extreme weather we’ve seen over the past five years or so, according to McKibben, is only the beginning. Storms will intensify, droughts and floods will become more severe, eco-systems will destabilize and collapse as the local climate alters to the point where indigenous flora and fauna can no longer survive, and no other species are around that can fill their ecological niches. Chris Martenson says that the next twenty years will be very different from the previous twenty, as the ecological systems of our planet change to accommodate this new reality, as peak oil and other resource depletion issues become more critical, and the resultant economic pressures of mounting debt, faltering recovery and stalled growth penetrate deeper. I could go on, but it’s not necessary. The point is, we are at a pivotal point in our history. These challenges are daunting, indeed unprecedented, and the outcome is far from certain. Our actions over the next few years will be decisive.   Four Prevailing Stories of our Time: There are four stories (well, there are more, but let’s limit ourselves to these four for now) we tell ourselves, in trying to make sense of we are and where we are going as a society. The first story is that of Business As Usual. This is the story that is perpetuated in media, in newspapers, magazines, TV, film and so on. That whatever challenges we face can be remedied by the application of the same problem solving processes we’ve always used, and society and the economy will continue to thrive and grow. The second story, also popular in mainstream media for those who no longer believe that status quo is a possibility, is that of the “Techno-Future”. Yes, we are facing enormous social, environmental and economic pressures, but there is a belief that, as has happened in the past, new technologies will come along to solve these problems, ultimately leading to a Star Trek-like future of limitless energy and growth. The third story, also gaining in alternative media attention is that of Collapse. That the environmental and economic systems will unravel, triggering a cascading collapse throughout society, leading to a kind of post-apocalyptic scenario that Transition movement co-founder Rob Hopkins calls “Mad Max without the good bits.” However, there is a fourth story, one that gets relatively little media attention, which we in the Transition movement think of as Earth Stewardship: a society that respects and lives within the biological limits of the planet, one where we understand and accept that we simply cannot continue to grow, cannot continue to consume without restraint, cannot sustain our current levels of inequity and greed. So what are our options? How do we embody the story we want to write?   Albert Einstein said that problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them. This is a lesson we’re going to have to learn quickly, because so far whatever irresolute actions we have taken to address these problems have been entirely directed toward perpetuating the very systems that created the problems in the first place (Business as Usual). That’s not going to work. The economic, environmental and resource constraints we’re facing make it impossible. So, what else is there? On an individual level, one option that seems to be gaining in popularity is to participate in the resurgence of the “survivalist” paradigm. America is very much a cult of hyper-individualism, and that’s no accident. Over the past half-century or so there has been a kind of coordinated effort to dismantle the cohesion of the extended communities by which we as a species grew up, and promote America as the home of the “rugged individual”—as popularized and validated in everything from television to film to advertisement. (The “good reason” for that—or at least, “good” if you happen to be a multinational corporation—is that if the comforts and strengths of community have been stripped away, people are more likely to seek support, solace and comfort in consumerism, as opposed to one’s friends, family, neighbours and community.) The manly American doesn’t ask for help, doesn’t ask for sympathy or support, doesn’t ask for directions. When faced with a challenge, it is seen as admirable to button up, tighten your manly jaw, and triumph over the problem single-handed. It’s what the “strong, silent type” would do. Naturally, when surrounded by a collapsing civilization, it is thus a natural, “ruggedly individualistic” response to escape to the woods, build fortifications, and protect home, property and family (in that order) against all external threats by oneself. Also, as Dr. Stephen Quilley points out, the United States still has thousands of square miles of untracked wilderness that it’s possible to escape to. Most other countries don’t have that luxury. Canada does have far more wilderness than the United States, but much of it is distinctly inhospitable, often featuring either muskeg swamp to the horizon, or a severely unpleasant climate, or both. It’s likely no accident that the Transition movement, which embodies the spirit of collaboration, community and cooperation, started in Great Britain, an island that is almost entirely inhabited, and those relatively small areas still uninhabited are often even more inhospitable to human presence than Canada’s. And of course many cities in Great Britain survived the blitz during World War II largely because of what Pat Murphy calls the “power of community”. Finally, the United States is one of the few countries on the globe that has never (the highly-selective attacks of 9/11 notwithstanding) experienced a direct threat due to war or attack. Many other countries have not been so lucky. In particular, countries in Western Europe and the British Isles have endured the massive devastation inflicted by two world wars, and have learned through direct, hard-won experience the value of community, and of banding together in time of crisis. God knows I hope we are not headed toward a large-scale collapse due to peak oil, or climate change, or economic collapse, or all three, but nevertheless it is certainly one of several plausible scenarios. So, here’s a question: should such a collapse occur, who’s more likely to make it to long-term survival? The survivalist, hiding in the woods in his fortified bunker with an arsenal of weapons and a mountain of freeze-dried foods, or a community that bands together for mutual support and comfort, sharing of workload, distribution of essential tasks, and engaging in a large-scale collaboration on redesigning and rebuilding the local infrastructure with the goal of providing for their mutual and collective needs in the immediate and longer-term future? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I’m putting my bet on the community.

Pocket Neighborhoods

Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World
                                            "Pocket neighborhoods are clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around a shared open space — a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley — all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship. They can be in urban, suburban or rural areas. These are settings where nearby neighbors can easily know one another, where empty nesters and single householders with far-flung families can find friendship or a helping hand nearby, and where children can have shirttail aunties and uncles just beyond their front gate. How is a Pocket Neighborhood different than a regular neighborhood? A pocket neighborhood is not the wider neighborhood of several hundred households and network of streets, but a realm of a dozen or so neighbors who interact on a daily basis around a shared garden, quiet street or alley — a kind of secluded neighborhood within a neighborhood. The wider neighborhood is where you might describe “the red house on the corner of Elm and Main Street”— a local landmark that helps define and give character to a neighborhood. You may know some of these neighbors, but likely not the hundreds that live there. In most neighborhoods, streets are public, yards and gardens are private, but protected semi-public spaces are unusual. In a pocket neighborhood, neighbors have a shared stake in the common ground they live next to. Because of their watchfulness, strangers are taken note of and children are free to play. Neighbors are on a first-name basis: “Tom and Melissa live across the way.” These are the first ones to call on in an emergency, and the closest to join you for an impromptu order of takeout pizza." Check out this great link that has simple, yet creative ways to implement pocket neighborhoods: Story Ideas Inspired by the Book. For more information check-out their website.                   * This image is a great example of a pocket neighborhood. You can see the cluster of homes that have access to a shared green space to gather together.    

Your Soul At Work

How to live your values in the workplace
                                           An exploration of how our values are worked out in the workplace and shape our working identity. Work is one of the key ways we shape our world and the future. Attending to how we work and how work defines us and those around us, as well as how work actually takes place, reveals a multitude of connections between our spirituality and the world that emerges in the workplace.

Bread is Life - Pita Bread and Hummus

Resource Type: Recipe | Chef: Sara Brubacher
"Bread is life." This is something my father always said, it always made a lot of sense to me. I love bread. I love its earthiness; the golden wheat stocks that form the most basic of crops, the living yeast, flavourful salt, precious oil, and life-giving water that mysteriously transform into soft, warm loaves.  Bread is something meant to be shared. No one makes only enough bread for one person--all recipes make enough to go around. In the Middle East, where I lived for many years, bread is eaten with every meal, traditionally making up your fork, plate, napkin and dinner as you dip into the various salads, dips and main dishes that are shared from central bowls. If an unexpected visitor shows up around a mealtime, it is no problem because there is always more bread that can split so no ones goes without.  In the Middle East, bread is deeply symbolic. It means life--it is the most basic commodity, and if you can't afford bread it means you can afford nothing. It is always torn becasue traditionally it is taboo to cut bread with a knife, for it is like you are cutting your own child. With whom you break bread is very important, for if you eat with someone you are committing yourself to their wellbeing. Reconciliaiton between enemies takes place over bread and tea.  Pita, or pocket, bread, is the most basic Arab bread. While it can be a little involved, the results are worth it! And you can make your own hummus to dip it in. Sahtayn! Or, to your health!   Pita Bread (Middle Eastern Pocket Bread) 2 pkg. dry active yeast 2 2/3 c. warm water 2 tsp. sugar 2 Tb. veg. oil 1 1/2 tsp. salt 7 cups flour  Dissolve yeast in water.  Stir in oil, sugar, salt and 4 cups of flour.  Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.  Knead until smooth and elastic on lightly floured surface (about 10 minutes).  Let rise in greased bowl about 45 minutes (Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched). Punch down.  Divide into 12 parts.  Shape into slightly flattened balls.  Cover, let rise 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Heat cookie sheets.  (It is important to place dough on heated sheets.  I recommend baking on upside-down cookie sheet on bottom shelf of oven.) On floured surface, roll each ball into a 6 - 7" circle, about 1/8 " thick, turning a quarter turn with each roll.  Take care not to stretch or puncture dough.  Place 4 rounds on hot non-greased cookie sheets and bake 3-4 minutes until puffed and set.  Turn over with spatula and brown 2 minutes more.  Remove from sheet with hot pad or turner, leaving sheet in oven to stay hot while rolling next batch.  (Bake 1 batch before rolling the next.)   Place bread rounds on cloth and cover with another cloth while cooling (covering keeps them soft).  When cool, store in plastic bags (in fridge if made ahead of time).   To serve, warm briefly in oven or microwave.   Hummus 1 can garbanzos (chick peas) 1 or 2 large garlic cloves 1/4 c. tahini 3 tbs. olive oil juice of 2 small lemons (or one large) salt to taste Drain half the liquid from the garbanzos.  Put all the ingredients into a blender (put the garlic through a garlic press first).  Blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust by adding more tahini or salt. To serve: spread on a flat dish, dribble olive oil over the surface and garnish with chopped parsley, paprika or sliced olives. I usually double the recipe and adjust to my own taste. Serve with pita bread.

Planning for Action: Building on Community Strengths to Reduce Poverty

Report of the June 7 2011 Community Engagement Event
This is the text of the report prepared on the Community Engagement event held in Brantford Ontario on June 7, 2011.  PLEASE NOTE:  Due to document size limitations, the appendicies have been removed--please contact me if you wish to view them and I can email them to you.

Neighborhood Planning

An excellent resource for thinking forward
A great guide for planning your neighbourhood. It is an easy step to step guide to envisioning a community plan 5 years forward and then operationalizing it. It stressing that quality of life can be considered and developed throguh a planning process. An easy to follow read.