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 

 

 

 

Food Charters

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force briefly examined the Waterloo Region Food Charter (April 2013) at its 27 November 2013 meeting. The Group agreed that this was a good platform for starting/contributing to strategic change in the area.  It was agreed that this would be a key agenda item for the next meeting on January 8th, 2014.

Brendan Wylie-Toal, who serves as co-chair of the Waterloo Region Food Roundtable, says the charter is a “set of guiding values or principles. There’s nothing in there that’s going to force a municipal government to do anything. Our hope is that it’s a stepping stone to policies in the future that do have a little bit more teeth.”

The charter emphasizes that residents of the region must have access to affordable food, and encourages government policies that assist area farmers and prioritize “small and medium-sized” food processors and distributors.

Group members look at the following document:  Waterloo_Region_Food_Charter_final_Apr8

The Guelph-Wellington Food Roundtable has developed a toolkit for their Food Charter funded by the Healthy Communities/Public Health, The Research Group and The Trillium Foundation.  Specific sections of the toolkit are targeted to Eaters, Growers, Businesses and Institutions; Policy Makers and Community Food Projects.

GWFRT_Toolkit_Final_2013

Fifteen Ontario municipalities have already endorsed local food charters, including Guelph, London, Toronto and York Region.

 

1.  “How To” guides for creating a food charter

 

2. A sample of existing Food Charters:

 

 In March 2013, the provincial government introduced the Local Food Act, which aims to promote locally produced food and help more of it appear in restaurants and on grocery store shelves.