Spring 2022 Comfort Food
COMFORT FOOD | Newsletter
Just Another Chapter
We often refer to times in our life as chapters. It’s a way to look back and reflect on what we’ve been through and how we fared. It also helps us look forward to the future which we always hope is brighter and better. Jackie, a recent client of the Calgary Food Bank, is like so many of us, reflecting on her life as chapters in an interesting, sometimes difficult, but always hopeful life story. The first few chapters of her life were incredibly typical of those who grew up in the 70s and 80s. Dad worked long hours; stay-at-home Mom took care of the kids. She remembers fondly that powdered milk and many other pantry items now considered staples, were actually treats, “I remember when we would get real milk, it wasn’t very often, and it was special!” Those were happy times and as the oldest of three, she giggles about being a teen parent to her younger siblings.
The chapters of Jackie’s life continued, the pages turned quickly, and she found herself in Calgary in 2018. with four adult children, two of them living at home. Jackie explains this next chapter. “My marriage ended, and I needed to go back to school in order to get a job I could really be good at and grown in.” With the most positive disposition, Jackie proudly explained how her kids stepped up when her ex-partner had to declare bankruptcy and by extension, so did she. “I had some savings tucked away for school, but when you declare bankruptcy, you don’t have a savings account anymore.” Jackie thoughtfully shared that her previous chapter was one of privilege. “We had what a lot of people have; cars, a boat, vacations; but when you hit difficult times like unemployment and one thing after another fails, before you know it, you have no money left for groceries and you’re living paycheque to paycheque, getting further and further behind. I felt like my life was a house-of-cards, and then it just all fell apart.”
In August 2021 Jackie had to make a decision that would get her through this chapter. With strength and courage, she went on-line and ordered a hamper for her household. “It was a very simple process, they asked me about my expenses, and my income and made arrangements for me to come pick it up. I was so nervous and brought a friend with me and we were greeted by a delightful gentleman who was so friendly and kind. He had a great sense of humour and I was struck by how comfortable I felt. My friend and I were surprised by the amount of food I received that first day. There were loads of onions, so I pickled a bunch! There were a couple of bags of celery, so I froze that for soups and stews to be made in the future. We enjoyed the fresh fruit immediately and I was able to store the potatoes in my cold room. I was overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of food.” Jackie has some formal education in nutrition and quickly realized that the hamper contents covered all the food groups which made it easy for her to plan meals. Jackies’ friend was so impressed by the experience she inquired about volunteering to help other Calgarians.
She was thrilled to be able to request a diet-specific hamper as this further reduced her stress. Having Celiac disease is tough both physically and, on the pocketbook. Gluten-free items are expensive and not always safe for those with Celiac disease. “It felt like Christmas, having all these gluten free options.” At this hamper pick-up, Jackie brought her son with her because she believes that it can be difficult for men to ask for help and she wanted him to see first-hand how supports like the Calgary Food Bank are there for people who fall on hard times.
“Going to the Calgary Food Bank was like going to visit a friend’s house to ask for a bit of help, I was overwhelmed and incredibly humbled by the whole experience.” Jackie says, “It touched my heart that absolute strangers give so selflessly. They did not want to know my story, there was no judgement, they didn’t need to know if I’m worthy of support, they were just there. The feeling to ‘not have’ is profound and then to see that strangers are giving their time, their donations, food to help others out; it’s so overwhelming and humbling at the same time.” With emotion in her voice Jackie ended our conversation by saying “everybody needs help sometimes and as soon as I’m capable, I’m going to turn around and give it right back, in any way that I possibly can.”
Partners In Action
This year will be the 23rd Annual POWER Garden harvest. Sixty retired TransAlta retirees are busy planning the planting season to grow tens of thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables for our clients. The two gardens they tend will yield a variety of veggies such as carrots, beets, zucchini, spaghetti squash, onions, and potatoes. This year will be easier for the dedicated volunteer group because a brand-new tractor has been purchased to help work the land. TransAlta – powering economies and communities – helps make this project happen! We thank them for their sponsorship of the tractor. Big thanks also to Eagle Lake Professional Landscape Supply . We could not be prouder to toil beside all of these dedicated supporters!
Why not consider planting an extra row in your own garden to donate to the food bank? Whether it’s a bag, a bunch, or a bushel, it all adds up to help provide our neighbours with fresh produce. Whether you’re inspired to grow acres or simply grow a row, we welcome all gardeners as partners in feeding fellow Calgarians this year!
With National Volunteer Week just behind us, we not only acknowledge but also celebrate our incredible force of volunteers, who make up 40% of our warehouse team. Without their outstanding support and dedication, we simply could not feed the thousands of Calgarians each week. While scrolling through our social media channels one day, I discovered a post from a brand-new volunteer. ‘At one point, I needed the food bank, and now I’m giving back by offering my time.’
This selfless soul, Majed Larbe, originally hails from the UK but has found his home here in Calgary. The story of how he came to where he is now is nothing short of remarkable. I wanted to meet this enthusiastic social media marvel who has garnered over 6000 followers on Instagram and is eager to take the Calgary Food Bank along for the ride. I was taken away by his life story when I sat down to chat with him before his Monday sorting shift. Growing up, things were a little rough for Majed and his 3 siblings. He had to be placed in Institutional Care, referred to as a ‘Children’s Home’ at the age of five. Eventually with some family support he had a home for the next 9 years, until, at the age of 15, he found himself homeless. . Remarkably, he found his way to military service. “I got tired of cardboard boxes and bridges,” he admits and explains that after six years of service, which brought him to Canada, his life started anew. He got a job with CP rail and spent time in Vancouver but on December 11, 1997, while riding his bicycle home from work, he was struck by a drunk driver.
Majed lay helpless on the side of the road for over half an hour in the pouring rain before someone stopped to help him. It took nine months for Majed to recover, including learning to walk again. He did this all on his own and fought his way back to health, but because there was no longer a job for him at CP after his recovery, he had to start fresh. Again. While cobbling together work, including a 3-day stint at a fast-food joint, Majed needed to access the Calgary Food Bank. He only had to call on us a couple of times, but he remembers that we were there for him. When he saw a news story about the increased need for the food bank and the call for additional volunteers earlier this year, he didn’t hesitate to sign up. “I like to give back; why wouldn’t I? It’s the right thing to do “. Majed’s day starts at 4:30 am; he walks Sadie, the family dog hits the gym, and then heads back home to help get his boys; 9 & 10 years old, ready for school. He puts in a full day in IT sales, and then, on Mondays, he joins us to sort food that will go to Calgarians in crisis. Majed says, “The most valuable thing one can give is the gift of their time.” To join Majed and our fantastic team of volunteers, please contact volunteer resources.
Written by Betty Jo Kaiser – a member of the Calgary Food Bank Communications Team.
We are getting back out into the community and would love to recruit a few friendly folks to join us. Upcoming events include:
Broxburn Market – Sundays 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
AMA Shredding – AL Azhar Sharine Centre Sunday May 29, 8:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
To sign up, please contact Volunteer Resources
We are looking for people to deliver hampers to clients that are unable to pick up their food. This is a good volunteer position for people who need flexibility in their schedule. For more information, please contact our Volunteer Resources Supervisor directly: Angela Irwin
Help Beyond Food
Our mission is to fight hunger and its root cause. We do the “fight hunger” part each and every day by distributing hundreds of hampers to singles, couples, and families. Then the vital part of supporting fellow Calgarians is determining the root cause of their food insecurity. If we can determine why they need the food bank and support them in their search for help, we can get to the root cause. Over the last several months, we have worked to revamp and improve our referrals to community organizations. When a client calls or emails us requesting a food hamper, we ask if they would like additional support. If they say yes (and the vast majority do), a volunteer either calls them back to guide them through the resources available or they can use our pre-designed questionnaire available on our website. Whether it’s help accessing government benefits, addressing health issues, employment support, or concerns about isolation, we have a list of partners to refer our clients to. If you’d like to know more, please refer to the Community Liaison Page. To volunteer in this area, contact volunteer resources.
Help us collect 50,000 diapers this May for our Bare Bottoms Diaper Drive! Donate funds online or drop off diapers at our warehouse.
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