Task Force Blog

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 

 

 

 

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From Band-Aids to Bridges: Food Security in Grey Bruce

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.

Nutritious Food Basket Survey 2018

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.

 

 

We All Live Here: Building Bridges

Not everyone experiences life the same way.  We live in the same environment with the same expectations but different realities. The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force supports people with grounded expertise to participate in solving our community problems.  Members of our Community Voices are graduates from the Getting Ahead program.

In 2018, we completed 4 Getting Ahead sessions in Hanover, Kincardine, Owen Sound and Walkerton with a total of 222 graduates. Getting Ahead is a 15 session (3 hours/session), 8 week program designed to help people create their own path for making a stable, secure life for themselves and their family.

A Getting Ahead Program Evaluation (Wahler, 2015) found that “the program … facilitates positive changes in poverty-related knowledge, perceived stress, mental health and well-being; social support, self-efficacy, hope; and goal directed behavior and planning amongst participants.”  Read the full study at GA-Program-Evaluation-Results_21 Oct 2015. Four sessions are scheduled in 2019 in Markdale, Wiarton, Port Elgin and Owen Sound funded by Grey County and Bruce County.

In 2018, a new Building Emotional Resources course for Getting Ahead graduates was piloted. The  Pilot has been picked up to run for 12 weeks in Hanover in March 2019.

This program is for people who have lost their way at some point and want to get ‘themselves’ back.  Getting Ahead graduates use a workbook full of exercises that invite them to reflect on their life and the way they deal with problems, with losses, and with their emotions.

Taking a constructive approach, participants increase their awareness, build more resources and become stronger as they move from one exercise to the next.   Read more in Emilia O’Neill-Baker’s article “Build Emotional Resources to Own More of Yourself”.

Bridges Out of Poverty promotes an active partnership between people of different economic backgrounds – based on mutual respect – to address poverty in a systematic way. Since 2015, the Bridges Action Group has been coordinating training with community groups on the Bridges Out of Poverty concepts.  In 2018, we provided 2 trainings (39 people) and offered many awareness sessions in Grey County.

The next component of the Bridges Out of Poverty program is the formation of Circles™.  Circles™ is a supportive, intentional, reciprocal, befriending relationship comprised of a Getting Ahead graduate and their family who are moving out of poverty (Circle Leader) and 2 to 4 community-based middle class people (Allies) willing to befriend the family and support their way out of poverty.

Since 2017, the Bridges Action Group has been working on a Circles™ design.  We have been meeting with Circles Canada and organizations in Ontario implementing various models while determining various cost factors.  In 2018, the YMCA coordinated a Poverty Simulation with Circles Sarnia-Lambton and Getting Ahead graduates for professionals in Elmwood. And we hosted a Circles Information Session in Hanover in 2018.  We continue to work on a design and funding for the model in 2019.

Rural Homeless Enumeration 2018

full length of man sitting outdoors

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In April of 2018, Bruce County and Grey County each conducted a homelessness enumeration using a Period Prevalence Count (PPC) methodology in their respective counties.

The problem of homelessness is most often associated with urban communities, however, a growing body of research over the past 15 years has shown that the problem is also prevalent in rural Canada. The size and the dynamics of the problem in these rural areas is still largely unknown, in part because of unique problems that
rural areas pose for data collection. Rural areas often have fewer services geared towards people experiencing homelessness and the services that are available often serve a large geographical region.

A recent study conducted in rural and northern Ontario found that only 32 percent of service providers in these regions are able to keep ongoing records of their at-risk and homeless populations. This problem is compounded by the fact that rural areas tend to have smaller populations spread out over relatively large geographic regions, making it more difficult to locate those who sleep rough or stay in unsafe dwellings.

The homelessness enumeration was the first of its kind to be conducted in Bruce County and Grey County – the result of a mandate set by the provincial government in 2016 with the passage of the Promoting Affordable Housing Act and the commitment to end chronic homelessness by 2025.

Beginning in 2018, all Ontario municipalities are required to conduct a homeless enumeration every two years with the goals of:

  • Improving community awareness and understanding of homelessness;
  • Helping to monitor and assess developing trends over time;
  • Providing a method through which to measure progress; and
  • Strengthening efforts to end homelessness.

The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force Housing Action Group identified organizations across the two counties that work with people experiencing homelessness as hub sites where enumerators would be located to conduct surveys. Front line social service workers were provided enumeration training on the survey tool, empathy training and information on services/programs available for people experiencing homelessness.

Results

Bruce County: over the course of the enumeration week, a total of 17 individuals experiencing homelessness were counted in Bruce County. Eleven of them completed questionnaires.  Read more in the full report: 2018 Homeless Enumeration – Bruce County.

Grey County: over the course of the week 33 individuals identified as experiencing homelessness and 29 completed the survey.  Read more in the full report to council.

Next Steps

The results are large enough to demonstrate homelessness exists in Grey County and Bruce County. Although the results presented are not generalizable to both counties’ population, they are sufficient to demonstrate that homelessness is a socioeconomic problem in Bruce County and Grey County.  The results suggests avenues for further study, particularly in regards to youth and seniors’ homelessness.

These results will be used in the consultation sessions for the update to Bruce County’s Long-Term Housing Strategy and Grey County’s 10 Year Housing and Homelessness Plan.