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$100,000 annually from municipality would help battle food insecurity in the County

Glen Wallis represented interests of several organizations fighting food insecurity in the County when he asked councillors at Thursday’s Committee of the Whole meeting to consider a $100,000 grant every year in the budget to deal with food insecurity.

“We are collectively working with the two food banks in the county toward the goal of moving into a single community food centre location,” said Wallis, who is founder of the Food To Share program in the County over the past four years.

“It’s time to have a dedicated location where working families can come at the end of a day and have a pay-what-they-can meal and access to fresh food and vegetables at a discounted rate,” said Wallis. “These are all the things happening at community food centres across Canada and as you can see from the Vital Signs recent statistics, it would be very helpful here in Prince Edward County.”

Wallis noted he was representing many different groups (including the Wellington and Picton food banks, the County Foundation, Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health and the Community Development Council of Quinte) “but nobody has put together a proposal because there’s no money.”

He was asked how the money would be used and what would be targeted first.

“Food insecurity is obviously tied in closely with health outcomes… The goal would be to bring people’s health up through food and community. Depression is a very real problem and one of the things we see when we look at other organizations that have adopted principles of good food organizations is that people who come out, are lifted from social isolation and become part of a bigger group and feel much better about their lives.”

Using a recent donation of $15,000, he said the County Foundation and Food to Share would add some matching funds toward putting together a proposal on what a distributed food model would look like in one location with distribution throughout the County.

“Under one roof there would also be much longer operating hours. It’s difficult for so many organizations all trying to do the same job.”

Ultimately, he noted, someone will have to be paid to organize. “It’s entirely volunteer-based right now but eventually there will have to be a paid administrator to pull of this together.”

The goal, he said would be to raise the standard of food given out, increase the quantities, and continue current projects.

“Currently we do teach cooking classes and we are starting with the Hope Centre in February to have community meals. We are engaged with both food banks – all those things could be sustainably under one roof.

The location would provide storage and distribution of fresh vegetables, most of which are donated by local farms. It would also allow teaching of cooking classes for children, teens and adults. He also visualizes preparation of community meals where everyone could attend and pay what they can, and production of Good Food boxes – a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables at a reasonable price.

“This initial project would pilot the potential for a number of distributed community food centres in different parts of the County,” Wallis said. “One of the keys to success for a project such as this is the inclusion of people with lived experiences of poverty at every step of the way… The outcome we all desire is that people who are suffering will be given the resources to make change.”

Wallis shared statistics from the recent Vital Signs Community report indicating 10 per cent of households in Hastings and Prince Edward County are moderately or severely food insecure.
In the County, 18.4 per cent of households are low income.

He showed statistics stating 372 people visit the Wellington Food Bank twice per month and 528 registered Picton Food Bank clients visit once per month. His presentation also noted one in four
people who are food insecure visit a food
bank.

“I believe that a municipality’s response to poverty and food insecurity is a large contributor to how people in the community feel about their community,” he said. “Working to eliminate food insecurity is about community-building as much eliminating hunger. We must move away from a charity model and begin to measure our actions and outcomes by how they are allowing people to exercise their right to healthy food.”

Food to Share, he said, plans to be a tenant with the County Food Hub project now under way in Sophiasburgh but feels it’s not a venue that could host community meals easily or assembly of a good food box conveniently.

The County Foundation, along with the other stakeholders, he said are currently working to inform the public about food insecurity levels; encourage public support for changes that would reduce the stigma surrounding using Food Banks; increase both the quantity and quality of food being offered and provide education around food preparation.

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  1. ADJ says:

    I don’t see this program as having legs for very long. Teaching proper use of and correct means to cooking etc. all well and good but that soon will fall off as volunteers become less available, discounted foods are not in season or available and as indicated will require a paid executive and board? to coax it along. Meanwhile Council has been shown the garden path again and anxiously handed over a 100k. Not in favour! A hand up is needed yes Not a hand out.
    There are both federal and provincial programs already available to individuals and low income families…why is it necessary to load more on to an already over taxed community ? Send those volunteers into the at risk home to teach prep/cooking skills. Give low income families etc. the guidance and tools to step up and better themselves and they will.
    Is there ever a quarterly audit or cost/spending report for these grants? There needs to be. This is a huge request.

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