Fighting poverty with food security

 

Public Health Dietician Laura Needham (left) and Jill Umbach, Planning Network Coordinator with Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, discussed food security issues with Saugeen Shores councillors at their July 24 meeting. Councillors were asked to consider endorsing a Bruce Grey Food Charter to create a just, sustainable and secure food system.  

For the past four years the Grey Bruce Poverty Task Force – politicians, 51 social agencies and community-based partners – have examined the root causes of poverty and identified barriers to change.

One of the main issues is food security – having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, appropriate and nutritious food – supported by a Food Charter that values health, social justice, culture, education, sustainable economic development and the environment.

Jill Umbach, Planning Network Coordinator with Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, and Public Health Dietician Laura Needham asked councillors to consider endorsing the Food Charter, which acknowledges the basic right to food, and is a commitment to work to towards a “vibrant, sustainable, food secure community,” Councillors were also asked to reconsider the way they “treat people who don’t have food.”

She said the 21 food banks in Grey Bruce do not address the main cause of food insecurity, so they need to change the “cultural way that we treat people who don’t have food,” so food banks aren’t the “go-to place for people with low income.”

“Rather than looking at a charitable situation all the time… we want those people to actually access other systems – whether it is connecting with fresh produce from a farmer that’s got excess, or whether its connecting to community gardens that are good for mental health but [where they] also can access fresh food….” Umbach said.

Food banks are still needed for crisis back-up, but Umbach said low-income people need better access to food that involves them more in the food system, including community gardens and school snack programs.

Coun. Mike Myatt said the 17 per cent poverty rate for those under-19 in Grey Bruce “struck a chord” and asked the source of the statistic and if the number was broken down further to give a Saugeen shores number.

Umbach said it was Census Canada data estimating that in Saugeen Shores, the average rate would be 14 to 17 per cent because the economy is stronger in Bruce than in Grey County. After the meeting Umbach said the 17 per cent figure represents the number of people under 19 in a family of four with annual income less than $42,000.

Coun. Neil Menage asked if people could legally give away surplus food – he’d had to compost an over-abundant crop of grapes. Umbach said it is “totally acceptable” noting there are Second Harvest programs and they are all noted on a food asset map. Menage also suggested they could develop community gardens in local passive parks.

Saugeen Shores Coun. Dave Myette thanked Umbach and Needham for “planting the seeds” to develop food security, and said he’d bring a motion to endorse the Food Charter at the future town council meeting.

In related news…

Umbach said the first Grey Bruce Poverty Task Force, Bridges Out of Poverty program – Getting Ahead –  holds its first sessions in Port Elgin,  starting on August 14 at the Community Housing Centre.

The program offers people receiving Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program benefits, an eight-week program that looks at generational and situational poverty and looks at the resources available for low-income people in the community to deal with housing, transportation and social issues. Anyone interested should contact their worker for a referral. She said some of the graduates of the Port Elgin Bridges Out of Poverty program would be invited to speak to Saugeen Shores Council at a future date about their experiences.

Grey Bruce Online Food Map is Launched; Targets Hunger and Waste Reduction

The Food Security Action Group (FSAG) has launched a Bruce Grey Food Assets Map. The map will help to connect organizations and businesses looking to build better food security throughout the region.

Currently, the Food Assets Map includes programs and initiatives like community gardens, community meals, food banks, food education, good food boxes, meal delivery services, student nutrition programs, and other support services. Food businesses on the map include farmers’ markets, distributors, grocers, producers, processors, restaurants and cafés. The map also captures food system infrastructure assets such as dry and cold storage, commercial kitchens and transportation opportunities.

Are you part of the food system in Grey Bruce? If so, FSAG wants you on the map. Individuals and groups may submit new assets for the map using a crowd-source form hosted by Grey County.

Over the next few months, FSAG will use mapped resources to engage partners in a Grey Bruce Food Gleaning project. Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover foods that would otherwise go to waste and connecting those foods to people in need. According to a 2014 Value Chain Management Centre report, Canadians waste a staggering $31 billion in food every year. Food gleaning can play a role in reducing food waste and its impacts, producing social, environmental and economic benefits.

The map was developed in partnership with Grey County GIS Mapping Services following a survey and interviews with food security programs and services. The Food Security Action Group is a branch of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force.

Community members are encouraged to connect with Jaden Calvert of FSAG to help populate the map or to contribute to regional food gleaning projects:  jaden.calvert@gmail.com.

For technical issues with the map, contact Grey County GIS at gisdesk@grey.ca.  Please reference Bruce, Grey, Food Asset Map.

Link to map: http://grey.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a70b87bc334846638b8d738ab26fced9

Link to map form: http://grey.maps.arcgis.com/apps/GeoForm/index.html?appid=ed0501c109e7401eb1f0f262a51dac17

2015 Nutritious Food Survey

Grey Bruce Health Unit:  The Cost of Eating Well in Grey and Bruce Counties

The Nutritious Food Basket

The Nutritious Food Basket is a costing tool that measures the cost of basic healthy eating using the current nutrition recommendations from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide and average food purchasing patterns from the Canadian Community

Health Survey 2.2.

Food costing monitors both affordability and accessibility of foods by relating the cost of the food basket to individual or family incomes.

Inadequate Income is a Significant Barrier to Healthy Eating

Food is a basic human need and is required for health. The cost of food can be a barrier to health for many people on a limited income. The Nutritious Food Basket annual report is a powerful policy and advocacy tool which can be used to raise awareness about the cost of healthy eating to assess the adequacy of social assistance rates or minimum wage incomes.

The 2015 Nutritious Food Basket survey found that it costs $199.55 per week ($864.05 per month) to feed a reference family of four (two parents, two children) in Grey and Bruce Counties.