“Everyone at the Table” – Why a National Food Policy in Canada matters to us

Canada has a new road map for a more sustainable food system with the passing of A Food Policy for Canada  on June 17th. The national policy’s broad vision sets out to ensure all Canadians have access to enough safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food, and that our food system is resilient and innovative to sustain the environment and support the economy.

The Government received feedback from 45,000 Canadians during its pulic consultations and summarized its recommendations for further comments.   The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force submitted our comments on the policy – Canadian Food Policy PTF Response_30 Aug 2017.

The Budget 2019 included a funding line for food policy that allocated $134 million dollars for specific initiatives, as well as announcing federal leadership towards a National Healthy School Food Programme.

The policy builds and is inter-related with other Federal initiatives like the Heathy Eating StrategyCanada’s Food Guide, and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, as well as work on food fraudfood labelling, and food loss and waste, among others.

Our Bruce Grey Food Charter reflects many of the same principles that are endorsed in the policy.

What is the policy?

The Food Policy for Canada will allow for improvements within our community. This policy will ensure that all people in Canada are able to access a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food. Canada’s food system will be resilient and innovative, sustain our environment, and support our economy. In Canada, our food is held to a high standard, and we know that these improvements will help in many ways.

The Food Policy for Canada will establish 4 areas for near-term action, including: 1) Help Canadian Communities Access Healthy Food; 2) Make Canadian Food the Top Choice at Home and Abroad; 3) Support Food Security in Northern and Indigenous Communities; and 4) Reduce Food Waste.

  • Investments – 134 Million under Federal Budget 2019:
    • Local Food Infrastructure Fund, $50 million – To support a wide range of community-led projects (eg., greenhouses, community freezers) that aim to improve access to safe, healthy, and culturally diverse food.
    • Northern Isolated Community Initiatives Fund, $15 million.
    • Buy Canadian Promotion Campaign, $25 million – To promote Canadian agricultural products thanks to a new Canada Brand, and through online and in-store Buy Canadian marketing campaigns.
    • Reducing Food Waste, $26.3 million – Working with experts to develop a challenge to fund the most innovative food waste reduction proposals in food processing, grocery retail, and food service.
    • Tackling Food Fraud, $24.4 million – To aid CFIA in cracking down on mislabeling and misrepresentation of food products.
    • Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council – An advisory council to the government will be formed with diverse expertise and perspectives to address the complex issues of the food system through collaborative action.
    • National School Food Program – Join with the provinces and not-for-profit organizations to address the issue of child hunger at school.

How will the policy impact us as a rural community?

With 1 in 5 children in Grey and Bruce Counties in poverty, it is clear that we need to find affordable and healthy food to fuel our children. It is hard for children to be successful if they are focusing on how hungry they are. The National Food School Program is a key part of this new policy, and kids in this area could greatly benefit from this. Food bank usage is increasing across the 22 Food Banks that serve our communities in Grey County and Bruce County.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture advocates for an economically sound and sustainable agri-food industry as a pre-requisite for delivering on food security.  Their analysis  provides more details on implications for sustainable practices for our local Grey Bruce agriculture production.  The policy will help our smaller, agriculture-based communities thrive.

 

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From Band-Aids to Bridges, Creating Community Food Hubs

The Food Security Action Group (FSAG), a working group of The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, and the Grey Bruce Sustainability Network will be working with local food security and food system stakeholders across both counties this spring to take action against food insecurity levels in several communities.

The FSAG will be hosting meetings in Dundalk, Wiarton, Kincardine, Saugeen Shores, and the Town of the Blue Mountains in April and May as part of a Food Security Hub Project funded by the United Way of Bruce Grey.  These meetings will bring community organizations, municipal leaders, food producers, and community members to the table for action focused discussions on their communities food security needs. Stakeholders will work together to improve food security services for the community, strengthen their networks and collaborative efforts.

Household food insecurity occurs when a household’s access to food is inadequate or precarious because of inconsistent income or insufficient financial resources.  Food insecurity is a good indicator of poverty in our communities. Currently 11% of households in Grey and Bruce County experience food insecurity. Children are at particular risk of negative effects from food insecurity, which is concerning given that 1 in 5 children across Grey County and Bruce County live in a low income household. Being food insecure has profound impacts on physical, mental and social well-being; and places a person at greater risk of becoming a high cost user of the healthcare system.

Despite the severity of the experience, only 1 in 5 food insecure households access traditional food charities. The Food Security Action Group supports the model of a Community Food Centre (CFC), or a hub model to better meet community needs.  This model leverages the power of community and creates a sense of belonging that empower all community members to advocate for a better food system.

Community Food Centres (CFCs) or Hubs challenge the line between giver and receiver by giving everyone a place and inviting people with lived experience to be involved in program creation and delivery.  Programs develop food literacy and can range from cooking classes to community gardens.

While large CFCs such as Toronto’s “The Stop” or Stratford’s “The Local” serve much larger populations, there are also local examples of how it can be done in the smaller communities of Grey Bruce.

Meaford’s Golden Town Outreach, has made important policy changes and partnerships and has added a variety of programs such as a “gleaning” program where volunteers will harvest excess fruit and share the harvest 3 ways – with the owner, with the volunteers, and with the food bank.

And CMHA Grey Bruce has launched their Fresh Roots food forest and catering services, and is getting ready to open the Fresh Roots Café. The Fresh Roots initiative uses a social enterprise model to support wellness among participants and in the community and creates employment for individuals with mental health concerns.

Town of Blue Mountains, Tuesday, April 30th, 12:30-3:00pm, Beaver Valley Community Centre – 58 Alfred Street, Thornbury  RSVP Link

Kincardine, Friday, May 3rd, 12:30-3:00pm, Church of the Messiah – Kincardine Ministerial Food Bank – 421 Russell Street, Kincardine  RSVP Link

Dundalk, Thursday, May 9th, 10:00-12:30pm, Erskine Community Health Centre – 90 Artemesia Street, Dundalk RSVP Link

Saugeen Shores, Tuesday, May 14th, 2:30-4:30pm, The Salvation Army – Port Elgin – 553 Bricker Street, Port Elgin RSVP Link

Wiarton, Monday, May 27th, 10:00-12:30pm, Wiarton Salvation Army Community Hub – 576 Edward Street, Wiarton RSVP Link 

 

 

 

From Band-Aids to Bridges: Food Security in Grey Bruce

Efforts in 2018 to transform food banks to community food centres saw Food Security Action Group members supporting community kitchens, gardens, food gleaning and a new partnership with FoodRescue.ca  – an online platform connecting businesses with surplus food products to non-for-profit agencies with food programs.  In 2019, we shall be focused on increasing the registration of Grey Bruce donors (farmers, producers, restaurants, grocery stores) and recipients (food banks, hot meal programs, community kitchens, etc.).

Through a grant from the Community Foundation Grey Bruce the Second Harvest program were able to purchase food processing tools for food banks.

Food Security meetings were hosted by Grey Bruce Health Unit, Bruce Botanical Food Gardens in Ripley, CMHA’s Community Food Forest in Owen Sound and M’Wikwedong NCRC to share best practices and exchange ideas.  In 2019, we shall continue our food security conversations with new communities under the Food Security Hub Project funded by the United Way of Bruce Grey in partnership with the Grey Bruce Sustainability Network.

We hosted our Fall Food Gathering in partnership with the Grey Bruce Sustainability Network focused  on the intersections between food, mental health, and the environment.  is important that people come to our community food hubs and know that they have been heard.   While Dave Roy and Alison Govier from CMHA Grey Bruce shared with us Where to Begin with mental health services and programs in Grey Bruce – they also helped to “de-expert” our roles. Plans are underway for the 2019 Fall Food Gathering which shall highlight the results of the Food Security Hub Project.

We saw a merger of our Bruce Grey Food Asset Map with the Agri-Asset Map.  Moving forward we shall continue to add food asset data with partners.

Presentations to lower tier municipalities resulted in 2 new municipal endorsements of our Bruce Grey Food Charter. In 2019, the Food Security Action Group shall be increasing its road trips to lower tier municipalities to speak on the food security + housing + transportation and seeking new endorsements.

Nutritious Food Basket Survey 2018

The end of the year saw the Nutritious Food Basket Survey released for Grey Bruce.  In Grey Bruce, the annual Nutritious Food Basket survey recognizes the local cost to eat well. Measuring the true cost of food in local stores, the 2018 survey identifies that a family of four requires $204.16 each week to meet basic food needs.

One in five children across Grey County and Bruce County live in a low income household, while 6.5% of households sometimes or often run out of food before they can afford to buy more.

Traditional food charity cannot address the root cause of household food insecurity: poverty. There is a need for change. The solution lies in an income response that include access to safe and affordable housing.

 

 

Respect, validation & listening: Fall Food Gathering 2018

Food Security and Mental Health
Alison Govier and Dave Roy from CMHA-GB shared with us mental health strategies, data, services and programs in Grey Bruce.

Our 2nd Annual Grey Bruce Fall Food Gathering on September 20th brought together food system players to connect, collaborate, share, and learn.

The Grey Bruce Sustainability Network and the Food Security Action Group of the Poverty Task Force focused this year’s event on the intersections between food, mental health, and the environment.

People with mental health experiences are members of our family and community therefore we all have a role to play in mental health. “The problem is the problem – not the person.” shared Dave Roy of CMHA-Grey Bruce.  “We need to respect, validate and listen to people.”

It is important that people come to our community food hubs and know that they have been heard.   While Dave Roy and Alison Govier shared with us Where to Begin with mental health services and programs in Grey Bruce – they also helped to “de-expert” our roles.

A rapid fire sharing sessions highlighted the work of several community food centres – Bruce Botanical Gardens in Ripley,  The Salvation’s Army’s Community Hub in Wiarton and the Walkerton & District Food Bank.  Creative and practical ideas were shared on second harvesting, engagement with super markets, fresh food purchase and distribution; food/plant education, local stewardship of plants and community engagement.

The afternoon session was a hands-on visit to the CMHA-GB Community Food Forest and Gardens in Owen Sound. The Food Forest has been a community hub for 4 years. It includes a fruit orchard, some 130 raised garden beds for vegetables, herbs and other edible plants and a new edible labyrinth. CMHA Grey Bruce employs 12 clients as gardeners and they help plant, tend and harvest the crops. The fruit and vegetables are sold at local markets and used in a community brunch program that provides nutritional meals to about 60 people daily, Monday to Friday.  A special thank you to Teresa Pearson and Thomas Dean for the educational tour and our lunch which was provided by their Fresh Roots Cafe and Catering with produce from the gardens.

The Poverty Task Force’s 2018 Election Education campaign was shared and members were encouraged to ensure food security-related data captured in From Bandaids-to-Bridges: moving forward with Community Food Centres is raised with municipal candidates. The creation of a new Agri-Asset Map for Grey County now includes the the Grey Bruce Food Security Assets data and people are encouraged to ensure they are on the map!

A long list of collaborative ideas were generated. The final commentary for the day centered on the need and support for these kinds of gatherings even more often than once-a-year. It was noted that the Food Security Action Group of the Poverty Task Force meets monthly and would be a good place for anyone interested in these issues to attend.