Respect, validation & listening: Fall Food Gathering 2018

Food Security and Mental Health
Alison Govier and Dave Roy from CMHA-GB shared with us mental health strategies, data, services and programs in Grey Bruce.

Our 2nd Annual Grey Bruce Fall Food Gathering on September 20th brought together food system players to connect, collaborate, share, and learn.

The Grey Bruce Sustainability Network and the Food Security Action Group of the Poverty Task Force focused this year’s event on the intersections between food, mental health, and the environment.

People with mental health experiences are members of our family and community therefore we all have a role to play in mental health. “The problem is the problem – not the person.” shared Dave Roy of CMHA-Grey Bruce.  “We need to respect, validate and listen to people.”

It is important that people come to our community food hubs and know that they have been heard.   While Dave Roy and Alison Govier shared with us Where to Begin with mental health services and programs in Grey Bruce – they also helped to “de-expert” our roles.

A rapid fire sharing sessions highlighted the work of several community food centres – Bruce Botanical Gardens in Ripley,  The Salvation’s Army’s Community Hub in Wiarton and the Walkerton & District Food Bank.  Creative and practical ideas were shared on second harvesting, engagement with super markets, fresh food purchase and distribution; food/plant education, local stewardship of plants and community engagement.

The afternoon session was a hands-on visit to the CMHA-GB Community Food Forest and Gardens in Owen Sound. The Food Forest has been a community hub for 4 years. It includes a fruit orchard, some 130 raised garden beds for vegetables, herbs and other edible plants and a new edible labyrinth. CMHA Grey Bruce employs 12 clients as gardeners and they help plant, tend and harvest the crops. The fruit and vegetables are sold at local markets and used in a community brunch program that provides nutritional meals to about 60 people daily, Monday to Friday.  A special thank you to Teresa Pearson and Thomas Dean for the educational tour and our lunch which was provided by their Fresh Roots Cafe and Catering with produce from the gardens.

The Poverty Task Force’s 2018 Election Education campaign was shared and members were encouraged to ensure food security-related data captured in From Bandaids-to-Bridges: moving forward with Community Food Centres is raised with municipal candidates. The creation of a new Agri-Asset Map for Grey County now includes the the Grey Bruce Food Security Assets data and people are encouraged to ensure they are on the map!

A long list of collaborative ideas were generated. The final commentary for the day centered on the need and support for these kinds of gatherings even more often than once-a-year. It was noted that the Food Security Action Group of the Poverty Task Force meets monthly and would be a good place for anyone interested in these issues to attend.



How Not To Be A D___ At The Food Bank

How Not To Be A D___ At The Food Bank

Great recommendations!

1. Do not give anything you would not want to eat. Odds are that no one else wants to eat it, either. Grocery stores donate enough dented cans and torn cardboard boxes to cover the “food in scary-looking packages” base. If you wouldn’t pick it up off the supermarket shelf, don’t put it in the bin.

2. Don’t give stupid things. I once received an immense tub of candied fruitcake fruit from a food bank. When I eventually ran out of everything else and ended up eating some of it, I thought, “I am so poor, I’ve been reduced to eating other people’s rejects.” Some food is just too horrible to wish on anyone else; throw it out instead.

3. Consider giving food that can be eaten without cooking. When I was homeless, I didn’t carry my microwave around. Even living indoors, people have a hard time cooking if their landlord won’t fix the broken stove or the power company just shut off the electricity again. That’s why some agencies specifically offer no-cook food bags. Think granola bars, crackers (including cheese and cracker packages), spam, tuna, peanut butter, dry milk — anything you’d take on a long hike.

4. Don’t give perishable items. This is kind of obvious, but I’ve seen bread in a donation bin before. Many food pantries get day-old bakery items and imperfect produce from local merchants, and any perishable items you donate will probably be thrown out. Also, leave food in the original packaging. If it needs to be portioned out, volunteers at the food bank will take care of it.

5. Think about people with special dietary needs. It can be difficult for people with food allergies or celiac disease to find donated food they can eat. If you donate gluten-free food, wrap some masking tape around the package and use a marker to write “GLUTEN-FREE” in large print. Do the same for allergen-free items. Clear labeling will help food bank workers get the right food to the right clients. Make sure the food really is what your label says; if you have any doubt, skip it.

6. Make it easy to get at. Aseptic packaging and pouches are better than pull-top cans are better than traditional cans. It sucks even more than usual to be hungry if you’ve got a perfectly good can of food and no way at all to get the damned thing open. This is especially true for no-cook items; people who need these bags may not have can openers. Avoid glass jars, as they may break during processing.

7. Choose things that don’t require elaborate preparation. A boxed cake that says “just add water” is much better than one that wants milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and whatever else it can think of. Instant coffee is great; ground coffee doesn’t work for some people. Also good are multitaskers. Bisquick rocks.

8. Keep it simple. I got canned escargot once, which went right into the garbage. There’s probably someone out there who’d love to see a can of snails in their bag, but most people will react the way I did. Exotic foods are likely to be tossed and they take up space that could go to things people will actually eat.

9. Ask what’s needed. The volunteers at the food bank know what’s on the shelves and how far it will go. They may also want donations of non-food items, like soap, toilet paper, tampons/pads, diapers, and pet food because these can’t be purchased with food stamps. I never would have guessed that the food bank near my house needs plastic bags — clients are supposed to bring their own, but bags wear out and some people just don’t have one. Your local food bank probably needs things you’d never think to give them. Ask.

10. Check your grocery store. Many work with local food pantries to assemble bags of food you can buy and donate for 5 or 10 bucks. It’s a really easy way to give.

11. Be nice. Most of what food banks ask for is pretty basic, but I still remember how finding cookies in my bag could make me happy all day. When you’re too poor to feed yourself, small things take on more significance. Try to include at least one item you’d choose as a treat for your kids. Someone else’s kids will love you.

12. Consider donating cash. Large organizations can get way better deals on food than you can; with ten dollars, Feeding America can provide 90 meals to hungry people. You can give them money here