By Barb McKay
In rural communities, such as Kincardine, food security is tied to much more than the ability to access healthy food. Shortages of affordable housing and transportation creates barriers for individuals and families already struggling to make ends meet. The issue of food security was the focus of a Food Hub held in Kincardine on Friday. The workshop was organized by the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force’s Food Security Action Group and hosted by the Kincardine Ministerial Food Bank. Similar Food Hubs have been held in Saugeen Shores, Wiarton, Dundalk and Blue Mountains. Fifteen people – local farmers, community members and representatives from United Way Bruce Grey, the Good Food Box, Bruce Botanical Food Gardens and the food bank – came together to talk about what food security currently looks like in Kincardine dine and how it could be improved in the next decade. The group was also challenged to come up with a couple of ideas for projects that the funding could be directed to. “Food security is not just being handed food by someone,” said Jill Umbach, planning network co-ordinator with Bruce Grey United Way. “Food is something people do without so they can pay other bills first. We know people choose to spend less money on food because their money goes to housing and transportation.” According to data from the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force, one in five children across the two counties live in low-income households. Nearly one in five households in Bruce and Grey spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities and more than nine per cent of Bruce County households are in core housing need. The need for affordable housing and affordable public transportation continue to be highlighted as issues that need to be addressed in Kincardine.
“People are supposed to spend 30 per cent of their income on housing and we know for some people that isn’t possible, so affordable housing is something we need to work on,” said Kincardine Deputy Mayor Marie Wilson, who attended on behalf of municipal council. Rising utility prices and fuel costs add to the problem. People who have to travel a distance to go to the grocery store are at an even greater disadvantage. The cost to take a taxi from Ripley to Kincardine is $35, Kincardine food bank co-coordinator Nancy Dawson pointed out. As well, it became evident as the discussion unfolded, that the general public lacks awareness about the options available for affordable food. The Kincardine food bank is open weekly on Thursdays to provide food to individuals and families in need at no cost. The Good Food Box operates out of Knox Presbyterian Church on the second Tuesday of each month. Anyone can order the boxes of seasonal produce and there is a subsidy for individuals on low incomes. Sher Brown of the Bruce Botanical Food Gardens said anyone can come and harvest the garden for a donation – whatever they can afford – but she acknowledged that getting to the gardens, on Park Street in Ripley, may be a barrier for some people. Wilson said the municipality subsidizes transportation through Saugeen Mobility and Regional Transit for individuals with physical and developmental challenges and there may be other opportunities to work with that service. The group also discussed the need for more education around growing and cooking food through free cooking classes and gardening courses. Ideas and potential projects will be discussed during a Food Hub regional gathering in Owen Sound on Sept. 25.