“Concern but optimism and a lot of thankfulness” is Lynn DeCaro’s takeaway from the Muskoka Community Foundation’s (MCF) third Vital Signs Report.
DeCaro is the executive director of the organization. MCF has previously released reports in 2018 and 2021. According to MCF’s website, the report is a “community check-up” that is done by Community Foundations across Canada that “measure the health and vitality of our communities.”
The report is divided into seven sections: environment, economic health, housing and homelessness, food insecurity, when in need, health and wellness, intersections
“To whoever is reading the report, they’re going to have their own feelings about what topic is most important to them and that’s really the goal of the report,” she says. “While we lay it out in these siloed sections, when we’re doing that, we’re always conscious about how each of these themes, or sections, of the report interplay with each other.”
DeCaro says the report was compiled through support from community partners like the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), the Muskoka Watershed Council, and the Muskoka Area Ontario Health Team. She adds that a lot of the data, like from SMDHU, is publicly available.
She adds the cover of the report was done by Aimée Bulloch’s visual arts class at Gravenhurst High School. She adds the 2021 report has also been integrated as part of the school’s curriculum.
She explains the goal of the report is to tie everything together, notably with the environment. “The environment plays a really important role in the lives of people who live in Muskoka and its visitors,” she says.
DeCaro’s optimism for the future comes from the “amazing work” of many in the community who work “tirelessly” to support those in need.
However, she is concerned that some areas of crisis, like food insecurity and the lack of affordable housing, are going to get worse before it gets better.
“I know there is a lot of concern there about the number of working households that are starting to need support from foodbanks,” she says, referencing SMDHU’s latest Nutritious Food Basket survey.
DeCaro adds MCF plans to host a roundtable discussion with foodbanks from the area to go over how to tackle the growing issue of food insecurity but a date hasn’t been decided yet.
The next Vital Signs Report is due in the fall of 2025.