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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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.

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!

 

Housing is a Human Right

Canada has adopted a Rights-Based approach to its first-ever National Housing Strategy on November 22nd, 2017.  They have announced their new strategy with a $41 billion budget over the next 10 years.

In addition to existing programs,  what is new?

$15.9 billion for a National Housing Co-investment Fund 

  • $4.7 billion in financial contributions and
  • $11.2 billion in low interest loans to developers that meet certain criteria including ensuring that:
    • 30 per cent of units in a development will rent for less than 80 per cent of median market rents for at least 20 years.
    • At least a 25 per cent reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions over national building and energy codes.
    • 20 per cent of units meet accessibility standards.

$200 million Transfer of Federal Lands to housing providers on condition that they meet environmental, socioeconomic and affordability standards.

A separate Indigenous People Housing Strategy will be developed with their input.

What is the need locally? 

  • 60% of people on low-income are working
  • 20% of employees in Grey County have multiple jobs
  •  95% of all new jobs created in Ontario were part-time
  • 1 in 3 jobs in Ontario is temporary, contract, or part-time.
  • 1 in 5 children live in poverty in Ontario
  •  17% of Grey County and Bruce County children under age 17 live in poverty.
  • 21 food banks exist in Grey County and Bruce County. 16% of the population of Bruce and Grey Counties have accessed a food bank.
  • In Ontario, the average food bank client spends 70% of income on rent.
  • Waitlist for Affordable Housing in Grey County has increased by 15% in the last year. 730 families are on the wait list.

How far the budget reaches down to support our Municipal budgets for affordable housing is still to be determined.  But the Federal leadership sets the direction for budge allocations going forward!

Measuring Homelessness in Grey County and Bruce County  

Our Housing Action Group will be monitoring and reporting on developments.   Currently, our Housing Action Group are developing the program design and implementation for Ontario’s Homelessness Enumeration on April 23rd to 27th, 2018.  This will be a Point-in-Time  Rural Survey carried out in partnership with community agencies and volunteers.

The report of Ontario’s Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness (the Panel), A Place to Call Home, stated: “Over the past several decades, homelessness in Canada has been on the rise” (2015, p.7). The experience of homelessness is understood to be a severe form of deprivation for people affected by a wide range of factors over which they have no control, such as unemployment or precarious employment, challenges with finding affordable housing, and economic hardship. Further, homelessness has
unequal impacts that are linked with racialization, gender, sexual
orientation, age, ability, language, immigration status, socioeconomic
status, mental health and addictions issues, regional location, and
Indigenous identity. Learning more about the prevalence and realities of
homelessness can galvanize community stakeholders who want to
develop more effective ways of addressing it.

Read more about Grey County’s Trends and Analysis as part of its County of Grey Housing  and Homelessness Plan (2014-2024) and Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Housing Strategy (2013-2023).