'Need to have something concrete': New strategy to address Ontario food insecurity
Households on-reserves in northeastern Ontario spend approximately half of their income to feed themselves
In Rebecca Friday's remote community of Kashechewan, Ont., she estimates half of the population receives social assistance.
"Their children are living off of chips and pop because they can't afford the basic healthy necessities," said Friday, Deputy Grand Chief of Mushkegowuk Council, representing First Nations along Ontario's James Bay Coast.
"For my diabetes, I can't just live on chips."
Households on-reserves in northeastern Ontario spend approximately half of their income to feed themselves, according to a 2016 study by Food Secure Canada. As a comparison, the provincial average is nine per cent.
People might soon get relief once the provincial government creates Ontario's First Food Security Strategy to deliver safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate meals.
Friday said she hopes it will lead to more funding to build greenhouses to grow food all year and create more employment.
'Sometimes I feel impatient with a whole new consultation'
"I need to have something concrete that will say to my people, yes, there's going to be help from the provincial government," Friday said.
"That's what I want to see. I don't want to have anybody come and make promises to me and not bring them forth."
Approximately 595,000 households in the province deal with food insecurity, according a 2014 report.
Public feedback is being accepted for the government's new food plan until May 31.
"Sometimes I feel impatient with a whole new consultation," said Gigi Veeraraghavan, co-author of the 2016 Food Secure Canada report.
"It's just a lot more time that's being put into it."
Veeraraghavan said she feels enough research has been done on Ontario's food insecurity, but she still welcomes the government's move because it signals the province is willing to take action.
"I'm pleased to see that the strategy acknowledges that there is more to food insecurity than just the food itself ... It looks at social assets and housing assets," Veeraraghavan said.
"To me, I would see monies being spent effectively perhaps and locally."