About seventy thousand people in Simcoe Muskoka struggle to put food on the table every year. This is about the same number of people who live in Huntsville, Orillia and Collingwood combined. Well aware of this, local food banks are gearing up for seasonal food drives to help address urgent food needs over the holiday season and into the long winter months that follow.
Food banks have been around for more than 30 years now but the need for emergency food just seems to keep on growing. Although food charity meets short-term emergency food needs, much more is needed to tackle the real root of the problem - poverty. It takes more than food to solve hunger. Household food insecurity is defined as “insecure or inadequate access to food due to financial constraints” – in short, no money for food. SMDHU encourages the choice of healthy food items if donating to local food banks but emphasizes that it is important to take an extra step and also speak up in support of long term, sustainable solutions for household food insecurity.
A range of policies are needed to get to the root of the problem and ensure that everyone has the money to feed themselves and their families today, next week and next year. This includes policies that support social assistance rates that cover real living costs and are indexed to inflation, good jobs with regular hours and benefits, and ensuring access to a basic income for everyone. With this in mind, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit launched a second phase of the “No money for food is ... Cent$less” communication campaign on Monday October 30th. In addition to continuing with awareness raising about food insecurity, how serious and pervasive a problem it is and the need for income-based policy solutions, SMDHU has created new tools and resources, including a downloadable collection of resources available on the health unit website, to encourage individuals and groups to take action and advocate - not just donate - during the holiday food drive season: http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/Promos/poverty=hunger. This phase of the campaign has been developed in partnership with and is supported by many food banks across Simcoe Muskoka as well as an advisory group of people with lived experience.
New campaign tools and resources include an information sheet that provides healthy food bank donation ideas. There is also a postcard and a poster that both highlight the need for action to increase incomes. During November and December 2017 health unit staff from the Chronic Disease Prevention - Healthy Lifestyle Program will be distributing hard-copy packages of these materials to partner organizations, including many food banks, across Simcoe Muskoka. Other local stakeholder groups are encouraged to contact the health unit for hard copies of these materials to share with others and to consider some of the other ways they might be able to help spread the word about the need to advocate as well as donate over the holiday season through activities such as:
- Posting an “It takes more than food to solve hunger” poster in their workplace or in other locations around the community: www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/docs/default-source/topic-healthyeating/no-m...
- Making available /distribute the SMDHU healthy donations resource (www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/docs/default-source/topic-healthyeating/food...) and/or “No money for food is …. Cent$less” postcard (www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/docs/default-source/topic-healthyeating/food...)
- Contacting the health unit if there is interest in having someone present to organization/group members on household food insecurity and the “No money for food is … Cent$less” campaign.
- Considering the possibility of writing a letter of support for policy solutions to food insecurity from an organization or group. To support this, letter templates can be downloaded from the Cent$less webpage For use as appropriate: http://www.simcoemuskokahealth.org/Promos/poverty=hunger
- Helping to spread the word about “No money for food is … Cent$less” by linking to the campaign Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SMDHU/), to the four videos on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzFV9L-5L2arTbGw3P76SHxajGwpSb9Rd) , visiting SMDHU on twitter (https://twitter.com/SMDhealthunit) and retweeting campaign messages..