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 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

More than the Ripley Apple to Discover at the Bruce Botanical Food Garden

Mikayla Smailes at the Bruce Botanical Food Gardens

By Mikayla Smailes, Dietetic Intern

Do you enjoy freshly picked produce? Take a short trip to Ripley and gain bonus passport punches at the Bruce Botanical Food Garden! I am a Dietetic Practicum Student with Grey Bruce Public Health. On Tuesday July 10, I had the pleasure of accompanying the Food Security Action Group as they discovered the gardens and their programming. Nan Grant, a volunteer with the BBFG, and Amber, a summer student, guided us through 250 different species of edible, organic plants. Both shared their passion for the gardens and for promoting food security in our region.   

As we travelled through the garden, Nan described how it was designed as a “body of health,” which organizes plants with similar health benefits together. In the garden, one “body of health” is dedicated to the digestive system; in this area thyme, basil, and lavender are planted together. As I explored the garden I noticed that the aroma of the many plants, especially the lavender, was healing in itself.

Bruce Botanical Food Gardens

The BBFG is a not-for-profit organization that describes themselves as being “small but mighty.” For the past 6 years they have welcomed the community to explore the 1 acre garden. Last year alone they had over 4,000 visitors. This garden has become a tourist attraction as it is solely comprised of heirloom and heritage plants grown from seeds that have been “pure for at least 100 years.”  During my visit I was introduced to many new plants, including gooseberries, lovage, golden raspberries and the Ripley Apple. I was delighted to learn that the Ripley Apple is a new apple species that was selected by 324 community taste tasters from the wild varieties discovered near the old Ripley rail-line, and is now featured at the BBFG. The apple represents “the strength of community”, and more importantly “the strength of Ripley.”

The Ripley apple is not the only way community members have helped build the gardens. The BBFG encourages any community member to join in planting, harvesting, and maintaining the garden’s sustainability. Have you ever wanted to learn about saving seeds, harvesting and cooking with fresh herbs? Knowledgeable volunteers also promote food literacy by hosting cooking classes and workshops. The BBFG relies on their partnerships with Bruce County, Huron-Kinloss, the Old Order Mennonite community, local church groups, schools, the private sector, and local families in need. The BBFG is always open to explore new opportunities to team up with other organizations to promote healthy communities. This living market operates with the support of dedicated volunteers, the generosity of local organizations, and the donations of visitors. The BBFG accepts donations, but encourage the public to enjoy the bounty of the garden even if you are unable to donate. This space is for everyone to experience and I’m already looking forward to my next visit!