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.



UK – Tripling in foodbank usage

Tripling in foodbank usage


Local food bank drive, doesn’t make it.

The Owen Sound Salvation Army’s annual Thanksgiving Food Drive has seen an “unprecedented” drop in the amount of food collected this year.

During the drive, which wrapped up Monday, under 10,000 pounds of food was collected, well below the organization’s goal of 28,000 pounds.

“It is probably an unprecedented drop for us,” Alice Wannan, the Owen Sound Salvation Army’s community and family services co-ordinator, said Tuesday morning. “Our goal was 28,000 and as of this morning we have hit 9,239.”

Wannan said the final numbers from the drive had been tallied up Tuesday morning and there were not yet any plans on how the Salvation Army intends to make up the shortfall.

Update here

As of Tuesday morning, Wannan says the Food Bank tallied only 9239 pounds of food.

The money collected from the kettle drive came in at $6979.13 —  which equates to approximately 2791 pounds of food.

Almost 40 million bees lost from Elmwood farm

By Jon Radojkovic, Hanover Post 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 12:38:19 EDT PM

What do alfalfa, coffee, chocolate, apples and watermelons have in common? All that food needs to be pollinated to become…food. And if the main pollinators, bees, are suspected of being killed by pesticides, what can we do to keep some food supply available for them until the slow reaction, hard lobbied government, passes a moratorium to stop the spraying of pesticides?

A public meeting was called last week to gather people around the issue of the millions of bee deaths in this region and around the world, after corn and canola was sprayed with neonicotinoid insecticides, common brands known as Poncho 600 and Matador 120.

Doubled with the huge increase of insecticide use on GMO plants, another problem for pollinators, which includes honey bees, sweat bees, squash bees, leafcutter bees (which pollinate alfalfa) bumblebees, some moths, and many others, is the loss of habitat. Put on top of all that high prices for corn, soya and wheat, fields are getting larger, because farmers are clearing many of the fencerows that traditionally would provide food for pollinators. At the same time, more residential development in the rural areas has seen an increase and size of lawns. These lawns are like a desert to pollinators, while many of them are also sprayed with pesticides.

One innovative way to provide more habitat or food, for pollinators, so they can continue to pollinate plants so humans can have food, is to plant perennial plants along our highways.

“Why does Ontario look so dead along its highways,” asked Carol Duncan, from Barrie, who spoke to about 50 people gathered at NFUO member Gary Kenny’s drive shed, near Neustadt.

Duncan talked about how she asked permission from the highway department near Barrie, to plant pollinator food—black-eyed-susans, wild strawberry plants, elderberry, choke cherry and even goldenrod. She got this idea after travelling to parts of the USA where there was an abundance of flowers and shrubs along interstate highways. “These are not gardens,” she explained, “they don’t need to be weeded forever.”

Another idea Duncan mentioned for pollinator plants was planting along hydro corridors. “It’s okay to cut the trees, but don’t spray and wild plants will grow,” she said. Grey County and municipal roads are typically mowed once along the sides, to keep the grass down and this lets wild flowering plants a chance to re-grow again, which is good for pollinators. Duncan cautioned though, that mowing the sides of roads and ditches by homeowners many times over the summer months, keeps flowering plants from coming up again. “Don’t mow the ditches, please,” she said.

Erika Schuet also talked about the loss of almost 40 million bees so far on their honey operation, Saugeen Honey, located near Elmwood. “I would say you could call this a, “bee holocaust,” she announced. After a good winter season, where their hives looked healthy, as soon as corn was planted this spring, the seed mixed with neonicotinoid insecticide, their and many other honey producer’s bees, died by the millions. They have had their bees tested by the pest management regulatory agency, an arm of OMAFRA, but so far have not had conclusive results. “The samples they have are to prove what science already knows,” Schuet says. She believes that past colony collapse is a result of lower immune systems in bees from insecticides, which is accumulating and coming to a head now. The half life of neonicotinoids is 120 days and can stay in the soil and water for years after. She also asked the big question, since the dust from these insecticides is in the air, is it not everywhere, especially in our water, and what is it doing to us?

“We all know it’s really about how chemical use is about making money for large corporations and their lobbying power,” said Chris Palmer, an attendee.

The thrust of the meeting, besides information, was more about what everyone can do to get a moratorium on neonicotinoids, at least a couple of years like the European Union enacted recently, and to save and grow more pollinator plants and shrubs.

Carey asked people to write or phone their MP, Larry Miller, who chairs the federal agricultural committee, plant flowering plants and shrubs instead of mowing your lawn and ditches, and hold meetings about the issue. He is inviting people to his farm, every Monday evening, to see what can be done. You can reach him at 519-665-7305 or

Poverty: 50 ways to close a food bank

As food banks struggle to cope with rising demand, they – and politicians – could learn valuable lessons from volunteers in Canada about the precarious nature of charity food provision.

 For years they have been volunteers at the local food banks. And they’ve had enough.

In fact, though they express themselves politely, they are furious. Alf Judd, the director of operations at Georgina Community Food Pantry, explained their frustration:

“I began volunteering with the food bank in 1990 thinking I would do this for a couple of years; here I am 22 years later.”

The Sudbury volunteers’ clever adaptation of the Paul Simon song 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, is part of a campaign – Freedom 90 – to make obsolete the charity food banks they themselves helped to create and sustain. Many are in their sixties and seventies; their explicit aim is to “retire” from food crisis volunteering before they reach the age of 90.

Its an unexpected campaign – older people, prosperous pillars of civil society, not obvious radicals – that has prompted the kind of bemused, if slightly patronising, press write-up that asks:


What if the little old ladies who run the neighborhood church food pantry rebelled?


But they are deadly serious, and have two serious demands: that social assistance and minimum wage levels are sufficient for everyone to have adequate housing and to buy their own food; and that government takes meaningful action to end povertyand make food banks unnecessary.

What they calls the “food bank scenario” is, they argue, unjust, undignified and unsustainable as a way of meeting the most basic needs of individuals and families, especially in their own, relatively wealthy province of Ontario.

They don’t want to shut down food banks – at least not immediately – they just want to make them unnecessary. Food banks, they argue (from bitter experience) don’t solve poverty; they don’t address food insecurity (only 20% of people in poverty who need food use food banks). They are stigmatising, and inefficient. Charity does not have unlimited capacity, they have found; and as demand for emergency food grows, there are physical and emotional limits to the amount of food bank volunteering they can do:


They [food bank volunteers] are helping in one of the only ways they know how but it is a job without an end and when times are tough, the stress and burden of feeling responsible for whether or not families have enough food to survive has simply become too much for many of our volunteers to bear.


This week I wrote about food banks in the UKstruggling to meet rising demand. That is an experience something Freedom 90 could tell them about. Canada has had food banks since the 1990s, (there are now thousands, and 900,000 people access them each month) and three decades on they still face the same underlying challenges.

According to Canadian academic Elaine Power, writing in Food Ethics Journal, in December 2011:


The 2010 Hunger Report, an annual report issued by the national association of food banks, Food Banks Canada, reports that 35% of food banks across the country ran out of food and 50% cut back on quantities because of rising demand – a 28% increase from 2008 to 2010 – and inadequate supply.


Power describes how the pioneer Canadian food bankers fervently believed their role was temporary, and that food banks would quickly close once the economy picked up. But even when things did pick up, food banks expanded: they invested in headquarters and equipment, hired full time staff, ran glossy marketing campaigns to publicise food drives, and accepted corporate sponsors.

The result, says Power, is that food banks:


…have become an integral part of our social safety net


That is precisely what is in danger of happening in the UK. Food banks are not merely proliferating, but are now co-opted into the fringes of the welfare state: following the abolition of the social fund, some local authorities give them grants in return for them playing a formal part in local welfare crisis provision. The Department for Work and Pensions issues food bank vouchers to claimants through job centres. Delays in processing benefit claims (up to eight weeks, one food banker told me this week), and increasing incidence of benefit sanctions, mean the state is leaning ever more heavily on voluntary food banks to help people who it excludes or fails.

Even the Trussell trust, an impressive UK food bank network whose operating model explicitly attempts to design out many of food banks’ structural flaws, is feeling the strain. What started as a community-based ideal – local food for local people – is becoming regionalised. Some food banks collect more food than others, and surplus produce must be shipped from one bank to another. Logistics is becoming a key operational issue. Trussell’s executive chairman, Chris Mould, told me he was actively talking to haulage companies about how – in an act of corporate generosity – they might help it move tonnes of donated food around its foodbank networks. It has joined forces with the supermarket giant, Tesco, for a series of heavily promoted food collection days, major events that are vital to replenish shrinking food bank stocks, especially outside the “harvest festival” Autumn period, when public donations are strongest.

Perhaps most tellingly, the self-imposed rules – a maximum of three vouchers in a 12 month period for each applicant – designed to prevent client dependency and ensure food banks remain an emergency service, are under strain. Food bankers told me this week that as welfare cuts like the bedroom tax began to hurt family incomes, they were increasingly worried that more food bank clients were not just needing a food parcel “to tide them over” but were trapped in a more permanent state of impoverishment. Food banks were simply not equipped to deal with this level of sustained poverty, but as local support and advice services were cut back to the bone, it was not always clear to which official agency they could “signpost” these clients once the three vouchers were used up.

Food bankers told me stories this week that were moving and inspirational: their spirit, generosity and ingenuity is a sign of the voluntary sector‘s vitality and compassion. But the UK’s nascent food banks face some fundamental questions. Canada’s experience tells us that food banks don’t “solve” food poverty, however hard they try. At what point do they stop peddling ever faster in an attempt to fill the gap left by the welfare state? And how do they ensure that their immense, positive energies stay focused on social justice, rather than road haulage timetables?

Read the full article by Patrick Butler at: