Realizing Our Potential: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

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Author: Ravenna

Posted: September 9, 2014

Categories: GoodFoodBites / News from Sustain Ontario / Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy / Policy News

Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy CoverOn September 3, 2014, Ontario released Realizing Our Potential: Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (2014-2019). In this five-year plan, the provincial government has renewed its commitment to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent (using 2008 as the base year) and has set a new, ambitious, long-term goal of ending homelessness in Ontario.

As part of the consultation process on a new Poverty Reduction Strategy in Fall 2013, Sustain Ontario made a number of recommendations on measures the Province could put in place to support a more sustainable, healthy and equitable food system. One of the recommendations was to continue expanding support for the Student Nutrition Program until all schools were able to offer such programming. We are pleased to that the strategy includes additional funding to expand the Student Nutrition Program to more communities. This is another step towards a universal student nutrition program for Ontario that will help increase food security, promote food literacy and ensure that students come to school ready to learn.

Sustain Ontario been part of the development of a comprehensive Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy (OFNS).  Its vision is of productive, equitable and sustainable food systems that support the holistic health and well-being of all people in Ontario. The vision is supported by a number of strategic objectives and activities, some of which emphasize the need to address the root causes of food insecurity (e.g. inadequate incomes, homelessness) to support individual health and well-being.  In reviewing the new Poverty Reduction Strategy, there are a number of new initiatives that could help to achieve some of the OFNS’ key outcomes.

Healthy, local food available and accessible in all communities

  • Investing an additional $32 million over three years to expand Ontario’s Student Nutrition Program so that an estimated 56,000 more children and youth in higher-needs communities can access a nutritious breakfast or morning meal at school. This includes expanding the program to some on-reserve schools in First Nations communities.

Increased individual, household and community food security

  • Indexing the minimum wage to the Ontario Consumer Price Index so that it keeps up with the cost of living.
  • Replacing the current Northern Allowance provided through Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program with the new Remote Communities Allowance to provide an additional $50 per month for the first person and $25 for each additional family member.
  • Partnering with the federal government to extend the Investment in Affordable Housing for Ontario (IAH) program for five more years and provide over $801 million in combined provincial and federal investment to increase the supply of affordable housing.

Strengthened Economy

  • Investing $50 million over five years to create a new Local Poverty Reduction Fund targeted at supporting local solutions to poverty by helping communities build on local strengths, address local needs and build evidence.
  • Working with private-sector investors to pilot one or more Social Impact Bonds, which will provide an opportunity to leverage new funding for prevention-focused approaches.

The Poverty Reduction Strategy also puts a significant emphasis on performance measurement and evidence-based policy development.  The government is challenging itself and its partners to gather better data to inform policy development and to measure progress to ensure that funding is directed to programs and initiatives that supporting the Strategy’s long-term objectives.

How will Ontario’s new poverty reduction strategy support your efforts to reduce poverty in your community?  What opportunities are there for the Ontario Food and Nutrition Strategy to align with and support the outcomes of the Poverty Reduction Strategy?