“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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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.

 

 

Poverty Task Force invites Municipal Election Candidates and the public to test their knowledge about poverty in our community!

At the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force we listen to people in our communities with low income. In the lead up to this election, we asked people with low income what do you want for your families?

“It turns out they want what people of all economic levels want:  steady income, a home that is safe and affordable.” says Jill Umbach, Coordinator of the Poverty Task Force. “They want good health care and representatives in government that work together with them to improve their well-being.”

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force are asking Municipal Election Candidates and the public – do you know what poverty looks like in Bruce County and Grey County?

We invite municipal candidates and the public to take our Community Survey to test your knowledge!

  • Did you know … ensuring formal opportunities to recognize and consult with people with diverse lived experiences builds stronger communities?
  • Did you know … support for community food centres and events reduces social isolation, promotes local food, and food skills programs?
  • Did you know … prioritizing safe and affordable housing creates safe and healthy neighbourhoods?
  • Did you know … income security solutions that include adequate social assistance would strengthen our communities?

QUICK FACTS:

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force has created a series of infographics with the latest data on poverty in Bruce County and Grey County.  Each infographic comes with references to assist you to learn more! Don’t want to read – then you can watch our Community Voices’ videos.

Infographics:

Videos:

Our Rentsafe: Above Standard Housing Project features members of our Community Voices speaking out on poverty-related issues in Owen Sound in 3 videos.

LEARN MORE:

VOTER EDUCATION

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force identified barriers to voting for people with low income and discussed potential solutions/action. Key questions were raised by people:

  • Why should I vote? “My voice won’t have an impact.”
  • How do I vote if I don’t have an address or I.D.?
  • How do I vote online if I don’t have have a computer?
  • How do I know what the candidates are standing for?
  • How do I find transportation to a voting station?

Education is key! 

The 2018 Municipal Election and School Board election is Monday, October 22. For information about your local election, please visit your local municipality’s website. Each municipality has posted voter information:

Planning to vote in the upcoming municipal election?  Visit voterlookup.ca to make sure your name is on the Voters’ List or call 1-866-296-6722 to learn more.

In 2018, voters in 14 municipalities will be able to cast their vote online from anywhere they can access the internet or telephone – 24 hours a day in some  municipalities. There will be no paper or mail-in ballots.

The service provider, Dominion Voting, has created a video to show how to vote by internet. Most municipalities have detailed information pages on Internet and Telephone Voting .

Three (3) municipalities will use a Vote by Mail methodology.

The YMCA Housing is authorized to verify status for people who are homeless.

Contact your local muncipality for information on All Candidate Debates, Voter Information Sessions and Voter Help lines in your municipality.

Putting a spotlight on poverty

United Way of Bruce Grey and the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force wants to put a spotlight on poverty in our community.

Basic needs are increasingly out of reach for people living on low-income, and people with insufficient income face impossible choices every single day. For people living with disabilities, further barriers related to employment, social exclusion, and higher cost of living make it even more difficult to thrive without comprehensive supports.

After the 1.5% rate increase in October 2018, a single person receiving Ontario Works will still be 65% below the poverty line receiving only: $ 732/month.

On average,1 949 households per month access Ontario Works in Grey County and Bruce County in 2018.

July 2018 profiles:

Of the July case load:

  • 1148 clients, or 62% were single,
  • 595 clients, or 31%, were sole supporting parents
  • Balance were dual parent families or couples with no children.

ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) has a caseload of 6855 households in Grey Bruce. A single person on ODSP is 55% below the poverty line receiving $1 151.

Ontario’s low income cut-off puts the poverty line at $2 080 for a single person.

The lonely girl cries in the street

Any increases to Ontario Works caseloads are attributed to positive changes in regulations around income supports such as child support no longer being considered income, increase asset limits which allow people to keep more of their earned income and savings as well as the eligibility requirements for youth 16 and 17 living on their own.

Transitioning people out of poverty and to a life of sustainability requires many supports. Access to transportation, childcare that is affordable and fits the schedule of the jobs available.

We also need to ensure that the right supports are there for the right demographic of people needing supports. With 62% of recipients being singles, we need to ensure there are supports beyond those just focused on children and families.

The United Way of Bruce Grey and the Poverty Task Force look forward to working with the new Provincial government on addressing rural poverty needs.

Microsoft PowerPoint - PTF Election Graphics_4August2018

 

For more information: