Food insecurity isn’t a new problem in Canada, but it’s definitely grown worse in recent years. The pandemic, of course, created added challenges. But even as the worst of COVID-19 now appears to be behind us, we still face a lot of economic uncertainty. More people than ever find themselves struggling to put food on the table. And based on current forecasts, that’s not a situation we can expect to improve quickly.

What’s more, food security is not a problem that’s unique to big cities. While media attention tends to focus on the social and economic challenges facing people in urban centres, the fact is hunger affects communities right across Canada — including Midland, Penetanguishene and our surrounding region.

We wanted to do something about it.

We set out in 2021 to see what we could do to help the growing number of food-insecure individuals and families in our backyard. The obvious answer was a food bank — but we knew it had to be a different kind of food bank than our community had seen before.

  • It had to be inclusive and readily accessible to everyone who needed it.
  • Rather than simply hand out care packages, it had to offer a wide range of healthy, nutritious foods and give people the flexibility to make their own choices.
  • This new kind of food bank should also be an advocate and ally, guiding people toward other kinds of support to help them become more resilient and self-sufficient.
  • And equally important, it had to ensure that people who found themselves in need of help maintained their self-respect.

So with all this in mind, we created Georgian Bay Food Network.

We don’t give handouts. We invite people to shop.

GBFN is a friendly, welcoming environment. We want our shoppers to feel as comfortable as they do in any grocery store — with no judgement, no stigma and no sense that they’re seen as “charity cases.”

You can register online or when you walk in. All we need is some form of ID and a few details on your current situation, such as where you’re living, whether you have a job and the number of people in your household. Then we give you “points” that you can spend as you wish. Walk the aisles, scan our well-stocked shelves and choose what make sense for you — from a changing array of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products, baked goods and a wide variety of non-perishable foods, as well as personal and household items.

Plus dignity, warmth and respect — free with every purchase.

Our navigator helps you find a path forward.

Georgian Bay Food Network isn’t just here to get food onto the tables of people in need — though that’s job one. But we also point the way to other sources of support, helping our clients begin tackling the bigger challenges that lead to food insecurity.

This is where our community resource navigator comes in. She can help with applying for financial assistance… negotiating unpaid rent or household bills… arranging childcare… accessing emergency housing… and connecting with health and social services agencies, whether to address an immediate crisis or arrange long-term support.

Whatever circumstances bring someone to GBFN, our navigator starts by listening closely to understand their current worries and longer-term goals. Then she helps identify a way forward‚ using her experience and connections to find quick, practical solutions.

We know that people’s lives are complicated, and there are many reasons why they find themselves seeking GBFN’s help. But we also believe that food assistance, while vital, is just the first step on a path to greater self-sufficiency.

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