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.

 

 

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Food Charter Promoted To Municipal Leaders


Grey Bruce Public Health and Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force are working together to encourage munipalities across Grey and Bruce to endorse and take action on the Bruce Grey Food Charter. 

Public Health Dietician Laura Needham has been on a roadtrip across Grey and Bruce Counties to speak about a just and sustainable local food system.  This is the collective vision of many members in the food security community and those who sit around the table of the Food Security Action Group of the Poverty Task Force (PTF).

Laura Needham, who is also the co-chair of the Food Security Action Group of the PTF says the Food Charter is a guiding document to assist in the development of policies and programs to promote a healthy and just food system in Grey and Bruce Counties.

In a recent article by Robyn Garvey of Bayshore Broadcasting News Centre Laura gives examples of how to use the Food Charter by municipalities:

“For municipalities this could be a simple as creating a community garden and planting fruit bearing trees in parks to promoting the region as a food, agricultural and culinary destination. ” She says “this also includes promoting sustainable development of agriculture, water, land use policies and practices that support the production of healthy food.”

Needham says “this includes protecting and enhancing watersheds, wildlife, soil and bio-diversity. She adds the Food Charter is also about promoting a healthy lifestyle, saying municipalities can do this by creating walk-able and bike-able access to healthy food. Other ways municipalities can help is by promoting food literacy and encouraging skills building initiatives among youth.”

In 2017 and 2018 we have seen an increase in the number of municipalities in Grey and Bruce Counties endorsing the Food Charter.  Check out to see if your municipality or organization has endorsed the Food Charter!

Click on this link or go to: https://povertytaskforce.com/food-security/bruce-grey-food-charter to read the Food Charter and download the endorsement form.

 

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.