“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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10 Engaging People with Lived/Living Experience

 

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Coordinator Jill Umbach joined Tamarack Institute’s 10 Lived/Living Experience Advisory Committee in 2018 as part of the Vibrant Communities‘ multi-sectoral poverty reduction work.  Since 2013, members of our Community Voices have been working with the Poverty Task Force as an advisory committee made up of people with “grounded expertise”.  People with grounded expertise deeply understand the realities of poverty in Bruce and Grey Counties. Their stories and experiences serve as powerful tools for building compassion and for disrupting and clarifying a community’s understanding of its roots causes and scope.

Group of people reflecting people with lived experience being engaged.

Informed by the 10 Lived/Living Experience Advisory Committee and interviews with our Community Voices a Guide has been written to support poverty-reduction groups to meaningfully engage people with lived/living experience. It celebrates the potential that can be unlocked when these individuals are included and empowered to drive anti-poverty work.

10 – Engaging People with Lived/Living Experience includes:

  • 10 really good ideas for engaging people with lived/living experience;
  • 10 stories that inspire (including #10 story of our Community Voices)
  • 10 useful resources;
  • 10 ways to get started.

The Guide highlights leading practices, inspires new thinking, and serves as a reminder of how critical engagement of people with lived/living experience in poverty reduction truly is.

Take Your Learning Further (links to resources from Section 4):

   1.  Social Inclusion Policy: Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction

   2.  A Guide to Creating a Culture of Inclusion: Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership

   3.  Toronto Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG): Application Form

   4.  A Case Study in Authentic Engagement: Poverty Solutions Halifax

   5.  First Voice Protocol: EndPovertyEdmonton

   6.  Creating Community: Hastings Prince Edward Poverty Roundtable

   7.  Lived Experience as Expertise: Regional Municipality of Waterloo

   8.  Nothing About Us Without Us: Lived Experience Advisory Council

   9.  Lived Experience in Paid Staff Roles: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (recording available here)

  10. Rights-Based Participation and Accountability in Canada’s National Housing Strategy

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 

 

 

 

Rural Homeless Enumeration 2018

full length of man sitting outdoors

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In April of 2018, Bruce County and Grey County each conducted a homelessness enumeration using a Period Prevalence Count (PPC) methodology in their respective counties.

The problem of homelessness is most often associated with urban communities, however, a growing body of research over the past 15 years has shown that the problem is also prevalent in rural Canada. The size and the dynamics of the problem in these rural areas is still largely unknown, in part because of unique problems that
rural areas pose for data collection. Rural areas often have fewer services geared towards people experiencing homelessness and the services that are available often serve a large geographical region.

A recent study conducted in rural and northern Ontario found that only 32 percent of service providers in these regions are able to keep ongoing records of their at-risk and homeless populations. This problem is compounded by the fact that rural areas tend to have smaller populations spread out over relatively large geographic regions, making it more difficult to locate those who sleep rough or stay in unsafe dwellings.

The homelessness enumeration was the first of its kind to be conducted in Bruce County and Grey County – the result of a mandate set by the provincial government in 2016 with the passage of the Promoting Affordable Housing Act and the commitment to end chronic homelessness by 2025.

Beginning in 2018, all Ontario municipalities are required to conduct a homeless enumeration every two years with the goals of:

  • Improving community awareness and understanding of homelessness;
  • Helping to monitor and assess developing trends over time;
  • Providing a method through which to measure progress; and
  • Strengthening efforts to end homelessness.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Housing Action Group identified organizations across the two counties that work with people experiencing homelessness as hub sites where enumerators would be located to conduct surveys. Front line social service workers were provided enumeration training on the survey tool, empathy training and information on services/programs available for people experiencing homelessness.

Results

Bruce County: over the course of the enumeration week, a total of 17 individuals experiencing homelessness were counted in Bruce County. Eleven of them completed questionnaires.  Read more in the full report: 2018 Homeless Enumeration – Bruce County.

Grey County: over the course of the week 33 individuals identified as experiencing homelessness and 29 completed the survey.  Read more in the full report to council.

Next Steps

The results are large enough to demonstrate homelessness exists in Grey County and Bruce County. Although the results presented are not generalizable to both counties’ population, they are sufficient to demonstrate that homelessness is a socioeconomic problem in Bruce County and Grey County.  The results suggests avenues for further study, particularly in regards to youth and seniors’ homelessness.

These results will be used in the consultation sessions for the update to Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Strategy and Grey County’s 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.