Poverty reduction group recommends creating food action plan
By Chad Ingram
Among recommendations in a report from the Haliburton Kawartha Lakes Poverty Reduction Roundtable is the creation of a food charter and food action plan for the County of Haliburton.
Marina Hodson, executive director of the Kawartha North Family Health Team, and Rachel Gillooly, poverty reduction co-ordinator for Kawartha Lakes/Haliburton, presented the report to Haliburton County councillors during their Oct. 23 meeting. The roundtable was established in 2016, growing out of the Haliburton Kawartha Lakes Poverty Reduction Strategy, which was initiated in 2012.
According to the report, about 25 per cent of children aged 17 or under in the county come from low-income households, and some 43 per cent of kindergarten students are considered “vulnerable” according to Early Development Instruments, meaning they are subject to compromise in at least one area of their development, those areas including physical health and wellbeing, social competence, and emotional maturity.
In the area served by the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit, 13. 5 per cent of households are considered food insecure, meaning they cannot regularly afford sufficient amounts of healthy food. According to the health unit, it costs $884 per month to sufficiently feed a family of four.
Hodson told councillors that the City of Kawartha Lakes has developed a summer launch outreach program, designed to dovetail with nutrition programs offered in schools for children who may require such throughout the summer months.
“This was an issue identified in many of the schools in the lower income regions, where kids actually didn’t look forward to summer break, because they knew that was going to mean they were going to eat less,” Hodson said.
Along with the creation of a food charter and food action plan for the County of Haliburton, other recommendations in the report include supporting food security innovations such as community gardens and community kitchens, and for municipalities to waive or assist with rental fees and insurance costs for non-profit organizations working on such initiatives, as well as incorporating policies related to local food systems and healthy eating into municipal official plans.
Along with food insecurity, the poverty reduction strategy looks at housing, education and employment, children and youth, and transportation, and has action plans for each of them.
“The action plans are closely inter-related, as I’m sure you can appreciate,” Hodson said, “ . . . any disruption in any one of the areas has a direct impact on the others.”
If someone loses their childcare, for instance, that may mean they may have to stay home from work, which affects their income, which affects their ability to buy food, so on and so forth.
In the county, about 17 per cent of households are considered low income, and about half of people who rent spend more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs, “which is the recommended maximum,” Hodson said.
The wait time to get into subsidized housing in the area is three to five years, and among the recommendations in the report is increasing the supply of permanent affordable housing options in Haliburton County. Some suggested methods include the waiving of fees for builders constructing affordable housing. A housing summit was held in West Guilford earlier this month, participants, including a number of community leaders, discussing what could be done to address the housing challenges in the county.
On transportation, Hodson noted that, at least for the time being, county council had decided not to proceed with the booked, shared ride service that had been identified as a suitable model for the community through a process it initiated using MTO funding. The firm the county hired to conduct a transportation implementation plan estimated the cost for such a system would be $300,000 and, citing concerns about usage levels and logistics, in the spring, county councillors decided not to proceed with the model this year, but included $50,000 in the 2019 budget for further work on transportation.
The creation of a rural transportation system for Haliburton County was another recommendation in the report.