Twelve per cent of Simcoe County residents are food insecure.
After more than a year of work collecting data from agencies, individuals, politicians and community partners, Ryan Turnbull, president of Eco-Ethonomics Inc. presented the Simcoe County Food Security Framework to county council last week.
But what will the framework mean for the average resident, and what can you do to participate?
County of Simcoe director of children and community services Jan Janssen sat down with BarrieToday to explain.
Here are seven things you should know about the framework.
1. The County of Simcoe opted to get involved in the food-security issue after feedback from a food forum in 2017
“The impetus for the framework was the June 2017 food forum that we, in conjunction with community stakeholders...had a really rich discussion that day about some of the causal factors of food insecurity,” said Janssen. “We were looking for potential solutions to help fill some of those needs, and ways to co-ordinate and better integrate services so we could actually get food into the hands of folks who need it.”
Janssen says about 90 people attended the forum that day, and the key wrap-up recommendation out of the event was for the County of Simcoe to hire a consulting firm to look at the issue more in depth locally.
“We took that recommendation back to council and they supported it. We’ve essentially spent the last year or so undertaking that review,” said Janssen.
2. More than 150 different community groups, organizations, politicians and advocates were consulted
“We undertook about 160 contacts,” said Janssen. “Some were in-depth interviews, some participated in our consultation sessions. It was a pretty extensive consultation.”
“Every food bank we knew of was invited in some capacity to participate, whether it was an in-depth interview or an invitation to come out to a consultation,” she said.
Janssen says the county worked with 211 Community Connections to come up with the list of organizations that would be consulted.
“We took a look at their database and pulled from there all the folks within the community that were doing food-related work,” she said.
Janssen says the county intends to continue with consultations by reaching out to any organization who wants to participate further.
“It would never be our intention to omit anyone,” she said. “I think the community was looking to us to be part of the leadership to get better systems in place so no one in Simcoe County is going hungry.”
3. There is a uniting vision
Out of the consultations, Eco-Ethonomics Inc. presented a vision statement that was formed by the input from all participating Simcoe County community agencies.
“We envision a sustainable, equitable and secure local food system in Simcoe County that recognizes food as a human right. It is an inter-connected food system where safe, sufficient, nutritious, culturally appropriate food is financially and physically accessible to everyone through dignified means, and where the people are actively working toward realizing a more food secure Simcoe County,” reads the vision statement.
“This framework really puts an emphasis on, how do we get these services and programs more integrated and aware of each other? How do we help build better systems for people to be able to access the food they need?” said Janssen.
4. There are seven leading goals to the framework
The seven leading goals of the framework are:
- Raise awareness and understanding about household food insecurity in Simcoe County
- Support income and housing solutions to reduce household food insecurity for households who are under served and/or marginalized
- Increase physical access to enough nutritious food for all
- Improve community food literacy
- Improve community food infrastructure and policy to support the local agri-food sector and ensure a sustainable local food system in Simcoe County
- Foster Simcoe County’s food traditions and Indigenous food knowledge and culture
- Support county-wide collaboration toward a food secure Simcoe County
5. A menu of potential action items are identified in the framework that could help solve the issue right away
Some of the ideas listed that could help solve food insecurity in Simcoe County right away are:
- Provide after hours (including weekends) access to emergency food programs
- Build community gardens and rooftop gardens into new affordable housing units
- Develop additional retail food outlets in food deserts
- Better equip food banks to accept or pick up donated food from farmers
- Implement an affordable mobile food market
- Develop a produce market/co-op for low income families
- Food agencies collaborate to purchase food in bulk, reducing food expenditure
- Food insecure families collaborate to purchase food in bulk, reducing food expenditure
6. A new community co-ordinator will be hired using county funds to oversee food security across Simcoe County
“We need a thread of continuity,” said Janssen. “I would see that person as being that connection point for all of the organizations and initiatives who do food-related work. Someone to shepherd the framework, someone to help ensure that it actually generates measurable steps that result in good things.”
During county Committee of the Whole last week, councillors shared concerns that if they were going to vote to fund the position, they wanted to see results within the first year that went beyond communication.
“We heard (at council) clearly there are concerns that this person would only do education. That’s certainly not the intent,” said Janssen. “We want someone who can help generate an action-oriented process where we can see and measure the difference it could make for people who are living with food insecurity.”
“We don’t do anything unilaterally around planning for this or any kind of poverty-reduction related initiative, and that’s the way we’ll continue to move,” she added.
7. You can get involved, too
“I think we all feel passionately about food insecurity,” said Janssen. “We all look forward to a day when this is not as big an issue across our region.”
Do you have ideas on how to deal with food insecurity in Simcoe County?
While communication channels for public input will be established once county council votes on the issue at their May 14 meeting, in the interim, feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the Simcoe County Food Security Framework in full, click here.