SooToday received the following open letter from Clean North in response to the ongoing uncertainty over the future of Harvest Algoma:
Dear Mayor, Council, MPP Romano, and MP Sheehan,
As evidenced by the empty shelves in local food banks, many people here in the greater Sault Ste Marie area do not have enough to eat, including families with young children. They depend on food banks to fill their bellies with nourishing food. Harvest Algoma has been an excellent supplier to local food banks. As well, they have saved a lot of food that would otherwise be thrown out, reducing the amount of food going to the landfill. This has the added benefit of reducing methane emissions from landfills. From our perspective as an environmental group, this is critically important as methane is a many times more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The more organic matter diverted from the landfill, the better for our future.
Harvest Algoma is now in crisis and needs major support to remain operating. We at Clean North feel that it is imperative for all levels of government and all partner organizations to do everything possible to overcome the current challenges. We must find a way forward to keep Harvest Algoma operating to ensure that food can be supplied to the food banks in the most effective and efficient manner (with as little waste as possible) and that all area residents have the food they need to be healthy and productive.
As our elected representatives, you are responsible for running the various levels of government and can play a key role in helping with this crisis. This may involve, for example, the City working with the Province and with charitable organizations to design the most efficient food distribution system, providing management support, and providing financial assistance. We see and appreciate efforts to date but implore you to do more to ensure Harvest Algoma stays afloat.
Good roads are important, and low taxes are popular, but failing to properly address hunger leads to burgeoning expenditures down the road. For example, when the nutritional needs of children are not met, that can affect their ability to do well in school, and low academic achievement can lead to costly social issues like involvement in the criminal justice system. People who do not get enough healthy food to eat may also get sick more often, adding further burden to our collapsing healthcare system. And people who are hungry all the time certainly cannot give anything to other important issues like reducing pollution and protecting the environment.
Finally, we feel it’s important to point out that a key issue interacting with food insecurity is housing insecurity, and no level of government is doing enough to address this. The fact that one person who owns multiple numbered companies has been able to buy up dozens of homes in Sault Ste. Marie and then leave many of them empty and/or poorly maintained is a perfect example of governmental failure to ensure all people have safe and secure housing. Home and land speculation is rampant (see the current Greenbelt land speculation boondoggle) and needs to be stopped. It is a major driver of more and more families becoming homeless or having to settle for overcrowded, subpar housing and/or being unable to afford food because most of their income is going to keep a roof over their heads. These two issues are inextricably linked, and both must be addressed to solve poverty issues in our community and across Canada. If people’s housing is affordable, they are much less likely to need to use a food bank.
Bill Cole, Chair, Clean North