Dear Colleagues,

Is it too early to dream about spring?

For those of you involved in community gardens, many of you are thinking about seed selection and garden plots. However, for many of our partners they are experiencing no break in the pandemic response in 2021.

Most partners are seeing an increase in the number of new people accessing food banks and housing support. The COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than most of us expected and the crisis has increased the stress on all households. Individuals and families are struggling due to lack of employment, lack of affordable housing and finding money in the budget for food. 

  • A recent Work Force Study reported in Saugeen Shores by Ashleigh Weeden found people feel there aren’t enough amenities to attract new people and housing is not affordable. It recommends diversifying the economy, investing in social infrastructure and more.
  • A Dec 2020, study of food insecurity and mental health in Canada released by StatsCan revealed that during this challenging time, Canadians who recently experienced household food insecurity were significantly more likely than individuals in food-secure households to self-report fair or poor mental health and moderate or severe anxiety symptoms. These associations persisted after taking into account a range of sociodemographic characteristics, including employment status and financial impact of COVID-19. 
  • CIBC Economic Analyst, Benjamin Tal reports a dramatic widening in the income gap due to Covid. Overall employment has recovered 70% of jobs lost in March and April 2020. 
    • Hours worked is around 5% below the rate seen in February 2020; the number of hours fell faster than the number of jobs. 
    • Notable is that young Canadians have experienced employment loss at all wage levels and there has been a notable drop in low-wage employment among older workers.
    • Lowest wage quartile saw the largest decline in jobs.
  • COVID19 has disproportionately impacted women economically. It’s being labelled a “she-cession”. Matt Galloway discusses what a “she-covery” might look like with Dawn Desjardins, deputy chief economist with RBC, and Anjum Sultana, national director of public policy and strategic communications at YWCA Canada on a CBC podcast. 


  • January continues to be busy for many food banks and community meal programs. The weather is colder, social assistance cheques were earlier this month and they are seeing an increase in new clients who are out of work.
  • It was announced that children/youth in Grey Bruce would return to school next week and the Nutrition School Program Grey Bruce has been busy positioning food in schools and organizing emergency food hampers for families from the Salvation Army for students learning at home. Other food programs are supporting families with lunch provisions and gift cards to families homeschooling.
  • Foodrescue 2020: 39,956.92 kg = 88,089.93 lbs = 44.05 tons of food was donated through and other donations from local companies to OSHaRE. This food was distributed to 24 organizations (food banks and community meals programs) in 2020.
  • The Food Bruce Grey website continues to collect data that reflects food insecurity across Grey Bruce.
  • United Way of Bruce Grey has pre-positioned 200 food hampers/kettles for street involved individuals with Safe N Sound, YMCA Housing, SOAHAC and M’Wikwedong Indigenous Friendship Centre through a grant from Reaching Home. The hampers will be distributed to people without housing that are in motels or living on the street. In addition to providing food and drink, the hampers will include specialized kettles that heat soup and other foods as well as boil water.
  • Many community food programs are expanding to include new cooking programs. Food bins, crock pots, recipes, video instructions and virtual cooking classes are engaging families and youth.
    • M’Wikwedong has been holding virtual live cooking with families. Crock pots and food is distributed.
    • The Meeting Place in Tobermory launched their Good to Go program Michelle Watson Introduces “Good to Go”They have also developed a Good to Go Graduate program in partnership with their local high school to prepare students with cooking skills.
    • The YUM program in South East Greyhas distributed crock pots, produce and recipes to clients as part of a pilot alongside their frozen meal program.  
    • Community Living Bruce Peninsula continue their Food Adventure program providing food bins and virtual cooking classes; and will be adding community gardens to their program as well. 
    • Neyaashinigmiing Council has increased the resources of the Nawash Food Bank significantly when the COVID-19 pandemic began. They offer off-reserve member households meal boxes from HelloFresh Canada, the meal subscription service. HelloFresh packages meal ingredients and recipes into one convenient box and delivers them directly to your home. Applicants must register for the Nawash HelloFresh program. 
  • Community Garden programs are beginning to turn towards the spring planting season. Many partners are in the planning stages of determining what beds are available, seed selection and food production in 2021. Contact Simona Freiburg, Grey Bruce Community Garden Network Coordinator, for support in planning gardens and if you are in need of seeds.
  • Community garden webinars are being offered through Grey Bruce Sustainability Network and CMHA supported by the United Way.
    • “How to Start a Community Garden” webinar with Teresa Pearson, Feb 8th, 6:30-7:30pm.
    • “How to Create a Food Forest” webinar with Thomas Dean. Mar 1st, 6:30-7:30pm. To register contact Simona Freiburg,
  • Winter Film Series: Eat Local Grey Bruce and M’Wikwedong have partnered to offer a free documentary film series on food sovereignty, our responsibilities to the SON Nation, implications of global pandemics and the need for more localized food systems. The event is free but you must register to obtain the links. Donations can go to Eat Local Grey Bruce Zero Waste Support program or Bagidawaad Alliance’s Indigenous Food Sovereignty work and the purchase of a greenhouse with a solar and wood-boiler system to be installed at Neyaashiinigmiing. 


  • Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP): starting Jan 22 to Feb 23rd all CVITP programs won’t be able to e-file while CRA prepares for the 2020 tax season. However, CVITP programs are still allowing drop-offs and pickups to complete 2019 and 2020 returns.
    • The Grey Bruce Community Income Tax Program is currently taking names and contact info through MP Alex Ruff’s office: 519-371-1059 for drop-offs and pickups. Clients will be contacted and informed of locations.
    • At present, the Bruce County Public Library Community Income Tax Program will be offering drop off/pick up service at its Walkerton location only.
  • We have also heard that there are a lot of challenges with getting through the CRA helpline. The call volume is extremely high. There are many people concerned with CERB repayment and tax filing challenges for 2020. MP Alex Ruff’s office is open to constituents for assistance in printing/faxing services to the government. However, at this time they do not have additional information on CRA outside what has already been shared.
  • The Humans of Basic Income project led by Jessie Golem, who grew up in Hanover, has a new website. Photographs and stories have been collected from individuals and families that were involved in the Basic Income Pilot. They continue to advocate for a guaranteed income program in partnership with the Hamilton Poverty Roundtable and Basic Income Ontario.
  • Call for sick benefits: Various provincial health organizations, including the Alliance for Healthier Communities, Toronto’s Board of Health and the Mayor of Toronto have called on the Premier to provide Ontario’s workforce with access to 10 paid sick days throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Premier Ford, however, dismissed these calls for a provincial support program and argued that “there’s no reason for the province to jump in there when less than 27 per cent of the overall [federal] program hasn’t been taken up.” Premier Ford indicated that his government is working with the federal government, who are reviewing the program.
  • Precarious work and health & safety is being re-defined under COVID19. Employees are seeing this work as being a serious health hazard.
  • The Precarious Work Survey carried out by 4 County Labour Planning Market Board Huron-Perth Grey-Bruce is analyzing its data collected and preliminary findings are that under COVID19, more women are exiting the workplace; and moving forward people will be thinking more health and safety on and off the job. With more people working from home, homeschooling and parenting; the work life balance is a stronger consideration. “We are now not working from home, we are living at work.” More to come with the release of this report.


Some staffing changes, department name changes and a new position/department has been created at Bruce County Human Services. 

  • A new “Business and Human Services Integration Division” has been created to provide financial and data management support across the Human Services Department and deliver integrated front-line human services and support for clients. Wendy Woods has joined the team to lead this new division as the Business and Human Services Integration Manager. As well, Cheri Herdman has joined as the Human Services Integration Supervisor and her focus will be the delivery of integrated human services and supports.
  • “Income and Support Services Division” (Ontario Works) replaces the “Income and Employment Supports Division” to better reflect the transformation of social assistance provincially and locally. This division continues to be led by Carla Meili, Income and Support Services Manager and Aryn Becker, Income Supports Supervisor.
  • Children’s Services Division with Tina Metcalfe as Manager and Housing Services Division with Tania Dickson as Manager remain under the same management. 


  • The Meeting Place – Tobermory is seeking information from rental landlords on the North Bruce Peninsula in a short 5 minute anonymous survey Results will be published by early March.
  • YMCA Emergency Housing has already seen 72 individuals with 500 nights of shelter in Grey County by January 21st. They are seeing an increase in families needing shelter because they can’t find affordable housing.
  • YMCA and M’Wikwedong housing support services have seen intense cases of people with cancer seeking housing and people released from prison but having to return due to a lack of housing.
  • Grey County Housing has announced they will be using just over $1.2 million in provincial relief funding to Maam Wiim Win, the Women’s Centre and Lutheran Social Services to create a combined 11 new transitional housing units in Owen Sound as well as to assist people with rent arrears and boost mental health and emergency shelter support. 
    • Maam Wiim Win, an Indigenous non-profit organization, will receive $120,000 to renovate one of its houses into 3 transitional housing units. The organization has partnered with the M’Wikwedong Native Cultural Centre and Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce to create the units with culturally appropriate supports, according to a staff report.
    • The Women’s Centre Grey-Bruce will receive $120,000 to convert one of its second-stage family townhouse units into 2 one-bedroom units for single women experiencing domestic violence.
    • Lutheran Social Services will receive $355,000 to convert a building into 4 transitional housing apartments.


Stay well, Jill

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