Poverty Task Force/United Way Community Update # 6

Dear Colleagues, 

I hope that this email finds you well! 

As we come to the end of week 3 of social isolation we want to thank all of you for the tremendous work that is going on with each of your respective organizations! 

Members continue to feed more people than normal and find permanent housing for more people during this COVID-19 Pandemic.  We thank all our members who have shifted their work from health equity, food security or income security advocacy to taking up roles as nurses and long-term care front line staff.  This is an amazing emergency response by all. 

We continue to update our lists of food, housing, income & employment supports at: https://povertytaskforce.com/covid-19-community-resources/

OMSSA Today Newsletter is out with news, policy updates and resources that matter to social services. 


  • Many of us have switched to Zoom to carry out staff meetings and to stay in touch with friends/families. Zoom Healthcare is also available which has PIPEDA and PHIPA compliance for confidential meetings with clients. 
  • The YMCA Employment program is reaching out to clients via video live feeds on Facebook. It is great to see the faces of their staff reaching out to clients and being available for Facebook Live questions and answers
  • Rentsafe has released its video Housing Issues? We’re Here to Help on available Housing Supports in Grey Bruce. 
  • Rogers offers $9.99 internet to low income housing organization tenants. Are PTF members aware of any new deals? 


  • Community Gardens have been a discussion amongst many Food Security Action Group partners.  The government has come out with a ban on the Gardens so some organizations are discussing household gardens and seed distribution. GB Public Health has released Guidelines on Gardeners. 
  • Sustain Ontario is facilitating an open letter—for any organization in the province to support—that identifies Community Gardens as essential community food services.
  • Community Meal programs continue to distribute food. Many have increased their numbers. Chesley Baptist Church opened up this week for a weekly lunch-to-go meal program (12noon-1pm). Numbers doubled in the number of people served. 
  • FoodRescue.ca has announced funding available for members and non-members who are not already accessing funding through Feed Ontario or The Salvation Army.  Food Banks who 1) are existing members can apply directly, 2) non-members can join FoodRescue.ca or 3) non-members can apply without becoming members. Any questions can be answered at: emergencyfund@secondharvest.ca 
  • United Way Pandemic Fund and Food Security Fund: Food banks and food programs were invited to highlight funding requests to address unmet program needs. 22% of the funds have been directed to food banks, 18% to community meal programs, 16% went to toilet paper for distribution through the food banks and 15% is being held for the community meal programs for April and May needs.
  • The United Way was able to source bulk purchases of items directly from suppliers. This is important to reduce volunteers/staff having to shop frequently at grocery stores.  Habitat for Humanity is providing delivery services. For more info contact Francesca Dobbyn execdir@unitedwaybg.com 


  • The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has launched BounceBack® . It is designed to help adults and youth 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress or worry. Delivered free, over the phone with a coach and through online videos, you will get access to tools that will support you on your path to mental wellness. 
  • The Province has announced one time funding for families of children age 0-12 and children/youth with autism. 
  • There is a correction to the Bruce County Children’s Services’ number on the Bruce County Human Services COVID-19 Response poster. 
  • The United Way is already planning for children’s return to school and its 2020 Backpack Program. If your organization would like to submit requests for build backpacks please contact Sarah at: backpacks@unitedwaybg.com.  If you anticipate an increased need please let the United Way know so they can prepare for the Fall.   


  • Weekly Housing Action Group meetings are being held to coordinate emergency needs. The YMCA Housing reports that since mid-March they have sheltered 64 households. Of those, 23 households have found permanent housing and 2 in transitional housing.
  • Ontario Housing Benefit will be starting to roll out for affordable housing. 
  • Bruce County and Grey County Housing received notice last week from Municipal Affairs/Housing that they will be receiving funding
    from Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) to flow funds for COVID -19 response. It will allow support for seniors, food, and other emergency needs. The Counties are currently undertaking a rapid needs analysis. 

Stay well,  Jill Umbach

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.

Volunteer Opportunity: Photographers

We’re looking for local photographers!

Do you have a passion for photography, your own DSLR camera and experience with photo editing? We could use your help!

We are looking for volunteers to help make a difference by harnessing the power of photography to advocate for poverty reform and social change in Bruce and Grey Counties.

The volunteer will help us to cover some of the more exciting work we do and events we and our member organizations run while helping to raise the profile of the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force.

What needs to get done:

Assisting the Task Force team, you will be helping to document our work and the efforts of our member organizations.

You may be asked to photograph seminars, workshops, indoor and/or outdoor events as well as local places of interest. Your tasks will also include talking to volunteers, participants and the general public about their opinions and experiences, obtaining permissions, and of course taking photographs.

What you will need:

  • You will need to own – or have access to – a DSLR camera,
  • You should have some experience with digital editing,
  • Experience with Flickr, WordPress, Twitter and Facebook would be an advantage.

What you will get out of it:

This is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable volunteer experience in your community while helping to fight poverty and improve the lives of people in the Grey Bruce area.

All photographs used will be credited to the photographer. They may appear on our website, social media channels, internal and / or external publications. Your photographs may also be sent as part of press release packages to local and national press agencies.

References will also be provided upon request.

Want to learn more?

Contact us to start volunteering today!

Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force – Social Media Survey

Social Media Survey

Thank you for agreeing to take part in this important survey measuring the social media use of Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force members, staff and volunteers.

We will be gaining your thoughts and opinions in order to better understand the needs of our members, develop suitable training materials and continue to improve our online presence.

This survey should only take 5-10 minutes to complete. Be assured that all answers you provide will be kept in the strictest confidentiality.

Click here to complete the survey now!

Thank you for your time and participation!

– The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force team