In 2019, 5 Food Security Conversations were held across Grey Bruce facilitated by Kimberly Edwards with the Grey Bruce Sustainability Network. This was a partnership between the Poverty Task Force’s Food Security Action Group and the Grey Bruce Health Unit. It was funded by the United Way of Bruce Grey.
Local conversations were hosted by food banks and engaged a wide range of community members to discuss their local food systems and envision changes for their community. The project observed a variety of community opportunities to respond to food insecurity. Read more about these in the Full Project Report or individual community conversations:
We formalized a Community Gardens Network between community gardeners in Grey Bruce which will exchange more technical expertise under the leadership of Simona Freibergova.
And we facilitated more food banks to sign up to the Good Food Organizations initiative – a project of Community Food Centres Canada. The initiative supports food security organizations by increasing their capacity to offer healthy and dignified food programs.
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
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.
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.
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.