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.
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.
The reports come so often that we shrug them off. Over and over, child and youth watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond tells us the British Columbian government has failed yet again to protect children.
Again and again, B.C. is the province with the most poor families with children. As the political mantra goes, no one cares so it doesn’t matter.
It is not just a B.C. problem. The Conference Board of Canada points out that15.1 per cent of Canada’s children live in poverty. That’s one in seven of all the kids in the country. It’s scant consolation that the poverty rate among American children is over 20 per cent. In the Nordic countries, the rate is two to three per cent.
No one cares to remember that back in 1989, the House of Commons voted unanimously to get rid of child poverty in this country by the year 2000. Times change, and so governments. To paraphrase La Rochefoucauld, we always find the strength to bear the misfortunes of other people’s children. No one cares so it doesn’t matter.
Poverty as death sentence
But poverty, we now see, is worse than a misfortune for poor children: it means a stressed and unhappy life and an early death. This spring, UNICEF reported that 80 per cent of the human brain develops (or fails to develop) in the first five years of life:
“• In the 1st years of life the brain grows at the pace of 700 new neural connections per second, a pace which is never achieved again.
“• By 3 years of age, a child brain is twice as active an adult brain.
“• It is early life experiences that determine the capacity of the brain.”
If those early life experiences are stressful, as they usually are in poor families, the child is already condemned to a shorter life. A scientific report this spring in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that children growing up in the stress of disadvantaged environments actually suffer genetic change: the telomeres on their chromosomes, which protect their genes, are shortened. Telomeres normally shorten with age, so stress prematurely ages children before their time.
Meanwhile, stress hormones actually remodel the child’s brain, and not for the better: “Early life events influence life-long patterns of emotionality and stress responsiveness and alter the rate of brain and body aging.”
If any adult walked through a kindergarten class of 21 children and deliberately struck three of them in the head with a blackjack, causing lifelong brain damage, that adult would be hunted down and jailed. Yet as a society we not only permit such brain damage, we practically legislate it by keeping families poor.
We might defend ourselves by pointing out how much worse things are overseas. Just in time for Mother’s Day, the charitable organization Save the Children has released a horrifying report. State of the World’s Mothers 2014 focuses on mothers and children in humanitarian crises like South Sudan, Syria, and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Some numbers:
• Every day, some 800 mothers and 18,000 young children die of preventable causes; over half of these deaths occur in conflict zones or in natural disasters.
• Worldwide, women and children are up to 14 times more likely than men to die in a disaster.
• For every person killed directly by armed violence, between three and 15 die indirectly from diseases, medical complications and malnutrition.
But while the report focuses on such overseas disasters and their possible solutions, it also shames us here in North America. After Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, poor people — especially poor women and children — suffered most. The same is true for communities recently hit by tornadoes and other extreme weather events.
Canada: Sinking down the Mothers’ Index
Save the Children’s Mothers’ Index ranks nations on five indicators:
• Maternal health (lifetime risk of maternal death);
• Children’s well-being (under-5 mortality);
• Educational status (expected years of formal schooling);
• Economic status (per capita GNP); and
• Political status (participation of women in national government).
On those indicators, the United States ranks #31 and Save the Children is scathing:
“In the United States, women face a one in 2,400 risk of maternal death. Only five developed countries in the world — Albania, Latvia, Moldova, Russian Federation and Ukraine — perform worse than the United States on this indicator. … The [U.S.] under-5 mortality rate is 7.1 per 1,000 live births. This is roughly on par with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Qatar and Uruguay.”
Canada was #2 in the first Mothers’ Index in 2000, right behind Norway (the U.S. was #4). We were in the top 10 for seven years, but we dropped out after 2006 (we were then #9) and we’re now at #18, right behind Slovenia. Curiously, our fall in ranking coincides with the rise of the Conservative government.
And who’s at the top? Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland: four small, cold northern countries. Both Finland and Norway have about the population of B.C. Sweden has the population of B.C. plus Alberta. And Iceland has 40,000 fewer people than Victoria.
Yet these countries provide superb healthcare, childcare, education, and even work for single mothers, while keeping child poverty under three per cent. Finland is #1 on the Mothers’ Index while maintaining an air force including 62 F-18 jet fighters. Sweden, #3, builds its own fighters and admits far more Syrian refugees than Canada. What’s our excuse?
Kids are not disposable
Given what we now know about child poverty and the damage it does to the growing brain, we’d be brain-damaged (and soul-damaged) to let it continue. These children, as politicians love to tell us, are our future and our greatest resource. Yet those politicians treat them like disposable tissues.
Not that the pols are unusually hard-hearted or vicious, but they are feeling effectively zero pressure to do something about it, and a lot of pressure to ignore it. Inequality is taken for granted, and so is the damage it does. The B.C. government seems to shrug off Turpel-Lafond’s damning reports, and oh-dears its way right past them. Special-needs students then come into the schools in predictable swarms, but Victoria feels no pressure to address their needs.
By 2050, today’s kids will be either tax producers or tax consumers: productive workers, able to support their own families, or people who can’t earn enough to support even themselves, let alone seniors and school children. They may even be living in prison, all expenses paid. All our kids will be struggling in a turbulent world of social unrest, climate change, and economic upheaval. Not one of our kids is disposable, now or in 2050.
We should no more allow a child to be poor than allow that child to be unprotected against polio or encephalitis. Give it a foothold and the disease will spread even to the top one per cent.
And those who tolerate poverty, whether of children or their parents, are public health hazards comparable to malarial swamps and cholera in the drinking water.
In 1993, the UN designated October 17 the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and later adopted the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger as the core of its Millennium Development Goals. The theme for this year is “Working together towards a world without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty.”
To mark the day, here are some things about poverty in Canada that you might not know:
10. It’s hard to measure
There is no official measure of poverty in Canada. Statistics Canada reports that 14.9 per cent of Canadians have “low income” (i.e. make less than half the median income) but declines to label that group “poor.” Low income is only one way of measuring poverty, though; another is the “basic needs poverty measure,” which looks at the absolute minimum resources needed to fulfill physical well-being. The “market basket measure,” created by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, takes a similar approach with a broader range of goods and services, estimating the disposable income needed to meet basic needs. In 2008, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) noted that poverty had been steadily rising in Canada since the mid-1990s.
9. It varies widely between different groups
Regardless of how you try to measure poverty, certain groups are worse off than others. A study by the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that Aboriginal Canadians make about 30 per cent less than the rest of Canadians. Other groups more likely to be affected by poverty include lone parents, recent immigrants, people with disabilites and seniors, according to Statistics Canada.
8. Child poverty is high in Canada
Canada ranks behind the average in a recent UNICEF survey of child poverty in rich nations. According to the report, 13.3 per cent of Canadian children live in poverty, compared to 11 per cent across the 35 “economically advanced countries” studied. According to one study, half of First Nations children in Canada live in poverty.
7. It’s a significant burden on the economy
Poverty can exert extra health care, crime and social assistance costs. According to an estimate from the Ontario Association of Food Banks, poverty costs that province betwen 5.5 and 6.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product. That same report pegs the national health care costs attributable to poverty at $7.6 billion.
6. Many Canadians spend too much on shelter
In 1986, the federal and provincial governments established a threshold of housing affordability set at 30 per cent of a resident’s monthly income. By that standard, a full quarter — or 3.3 million households — in Canada are paying more than they should on housing, according to data from the National Household Survey released this year.
5. Poverty can shorten your life
An analysis by The Hamilton Spectator showed that there was a 21-year gap in life expectancy between that city’s richest and poorest neighbourhoods.
4. Many don’t have enough to eat
According to Food Banks Canada, nearly 900,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks each month. Thirty-eight per cent of those helped by food banks are children and youth and 11 per cent are Aboriginal (compared to 4.3 per cent of the total population).
3. Homelessness is widespread
As many as 200,000 Canadians will experience homelessness each year, according to a recent report from the Canadian Homelessness Research Network. On any given night, about 30,000 Canadians are homeless.
2. Debt levels are on the rise
Last month, Statistics Canada reported that the Canadian household debt-to-income ratio had climbed to a new high of 163.4 per cent — in other words, the average Canadian owes $1.63 for every dollar they earn.
1. Early investment can yield big dividends
A 2008 report from the Public Health Agency of Canada argues that reducing child poverty can have huge spillover effects on society. “It is estimated that $1 invested in the early years saves between $3 and $9 in future spending on the health and criminal justice systems, as well as on social assistance,” the report says.
By late July 2013, the Ontario government plans to start consultations on the second phase of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), which are expected to be completed by the end of September. The first 5 year phase of poverty reduction efforts focused on reducing child poverty by 25% between 2008 and 2013. Ontario Campaign 2000 and others have been tracking the government’s progress in following through on poverty reduction policies and keeping to the first PRS’ targets and timelines.
Child Poverty Trends in Ontario:
The most recent data from Statistics Canada shows that the overall child poverty rate in Ontario declined by 9.2% between 2008 and 2011 (Low Income Measure After Tax).
In 2011, the child poverty rate in Ontario was 13.8%
In 2011, 371,000 children lived in poverty in Ontario.