Exciting news for addressing poverty and food issues in Guelph

From the Guelph Mercury

Guelph community food hub gets $267,000

Guelph Mercury

By Rob O’Flanagan

GUELPH—A $267,300 seed has been planted to grow a new organization aimed at eliminating poverty and food insecurity in Guelph in a new way.

Seed Community Food Hub Project, known as The Seed, received the Trillium Foundation funding Friday. Guelph MPP and Ontario Minister of Education Liz Sandals called the announcement “extra special,” and the result of exemplary, broad-based community involvement.

“It’s always a delight when you’ve got an issue and you see it come through, with the community coming together in a way to solve a problem and to create something that’s new and exciting,” Sandals said.

Sandals’ funding announcement stirred up an outburst of applause and whoops amount a gathering of about 40 people, most from the various groups involved. The model is new for Guelph, and is considered an alternative approach to the traditional food banks.

Tina Brophey is on The Seed committee and the Guelph-Wellington Poverty Task Force. She lives in poverty, struggles with food insecurity, and has contributed much to the dialogue about barriers to food security.

“As long as I have somewhere to live, and have good, healthy food, then I can strive and be a much bigger part of the community,” she said.

She said research done by the poverty task force found that stigma was one of the leading reasons why people don’t like accessing a food bank.

“The biggest thing for me and I think for most people living in poverty is that we are really hoping to do away with any of the stigma attached to asking for help, and give people their dignity,” Brophey said.

Sandals said the project has brought together a diverse cross-section of organizations in the community.

“What it’s going to do is create the core hub where there can be food collection, food storage, and food services to educate people about how to use food, and prepare food properly,” Sandals said. “But it will also have the capacity to create a secure food source, and a healthy food source for the community pantries all over the community.”

A collaboration between over a dozen organizations, with the Guelph Community Health Centre as lead, The Seed will be a dignified and respectful hub for harvesting resources for the growing, preparing and sharing of food. It will act as an encouraging and empowering agency for helping those living in poverty improve their quality of life and overcome their challenges, and it will act as a place where the roots of poverty are addressed, and where advocacy for policy change can take place.

Molly Kriksic, a local representative of the Trillium Foundation, was effusive in her enthusiasm for The Seed, saying when the grant application crossed her desk she instantly saw the need to support it.

The grant, she said, will help The Seed develop an agency that works with a host of community groups, improving access to emergency food services, and creating strong links with the agricultural sector. The money will also go to pay staff and equip a building that is now in the planning stages. She called the project highly innovative.

Brendan Johnson is executive director of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition and co-chair of The Seed committee. He said a space of about 6,000 square feet will be constructed to house The Seed’s services. Much discussion has taken place around such a facility, and the northeast area of Guelph is being considered as the location. There is money and a host of collaborators in place to build a space that could be ready by late 2015.

It will hold a large open space for events like community dinners and programming, an office for advocacy, and a large kitchen where food programs will be taught, and food will be prepared. After-school programs will take place in the space. The Seed will also partner with other groups like Hope House and Chalmers Community Service Centre to collect fresh, healthy food and distribute it to local food pantries.

The Seed is based on a proven model developed by Community Food Centres Canada.

“I think the old model was to hand out food and that was the end of a transaction,” Johnson added. “But we’ve all kind of seen that doesn’t work. It hasn’t made any systemic change in 25 years. So how do we do it differently?”

The Seed is for everyone.

“We want a place where people who are struggling or in precarious situations, that they’re not feeling like they are going somewhere to beg for help,” he said. “Everyone is going to intermingle. You won’t know who is who. We’re hoping it is a real community space, and not limited to one demographic.”

roflanagan@guelphmercury.com

 

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