Winter 2023 Comfort Food
COMFORT FOOD | Newsletter
Tears fill her eyes as Christine, mother of two and grandmother of two recalls the sudden passing of her father five years ago. His death marked the beginning of a series of losses that led to challenging times for her family and the need to reach out to the Calgary Food Bank for support. Meanwhile, giggling and colouring while we chat, Christine’s three-year-old granddaughter is excited to be in a new place. She opens a fresh box of crayons to begin colouring, she’s proudly wearing a unicorn toque and politely in the most adorable way, delivers “pleases and thankyous” with a delightful ease beyond her years. She chats about a garden her grandma and mom planted last year with flowers and veggies and how she harvested carrots. We are lost in her conversation, almost forgetting why they are here. This little girl brings much joy to her family, is well cared for, and is deeply loved. Following that wonderful momentary distraction, we come back to why Christine is here; to share their story and experience of using the Calgary Food Bank.
Christine stepped away from work following the death of her father to care for her mom who then passed away 14 months later. This second loss was hard on Christine but while she struggled, she knew she needed to get back to work to provide for her family. Depression crept in and Christine lost her job, which made things worse again. A major car repair she could not afford, the rising cost of living, and the inability to maintain steady work all began to take their toll and so Christine had to give the Calgary Food Bank a call for support. Although difficult, she says that she had to, “My life was like a country song, and I was house poor, there was no other choice. The harder I tried, the further back I fell, and you end up fighting with yourself.” When she made the call to the Calgary Food Bank, Christine said that it went well, “I didn’t feel like I was begging, I was simply talking to someone.”
Christine says the volunteers she has spoken to are kind, understanding, and helpful. She recounts how she felt when she opened her first hamper, “Wow!” So much food! Of course, the kids in the house started to rummage through the bags looking for treats.”
If a client has a child with a birthday coming up, the Calgary Food Bank provides some of the essentials to make that day special; a cake mix, icing, candles, some decorations, and a small gift. Christine said that receiving the birthday extras was totally unexpected, “That someone there (Calgary Food Bank) cared enough to add that in for my granddaughter, it really warmed my heart. My granddaughter decided we would keep the cake to make for my daughter’s (her mom’s) birthday. For such a young one, a very thoughtful and unselfish gesture.” Christine added that when she received the birthday treats, it felt like she was able to provide what her parents provided for her, and the most important thing about that is that memories were made and shared. She said, “It’s all about family and caring for one another”.
Christine says that if she could, she would hug every volunteer and donor who has been a part of her Calgary Food Bank experience.
After a pause due to Covid-19, we were finally able to celebrate the long-service awards of our incredible team of volunteers. It’s been a challenging time as the number of people we serve has continued to climb and the increased cost of food, inflation, and cost of living has been unrelenting. Simply put, we could not feed thousands of Calgarians each day without the support of those who give their time. Appropriately, this lovely video was also put together by a volunteer, Romi Rosen. Like the banner says, the best volunteers in the world are found here!
PARTNERS IN ACTION: Sharp Foundation
Established in 1990, the SHARP Foundation is a Calgary-based non-profit organization for those living with blood-borne illnesses or most vulnerable to contracting an illness such as Hep C, HIV, etc. Today, The SHARP Foundation’s main focus is helping residents live longer and have sustainable lives instead of primarily acting as a palliative care facility, but most importantly helping residents become independent and integrate into the community.
The Sharp Foundation picks up food and supplies from the Calgary food Bank’s Food Link Program every week. Items vary but often include canned goods, coffee, frozen meats, cereal, pasta/rice, and more. We have been in partnership for 9 years and Leanna Andrews, Food Link Associate, says when she took a tour, what struck her was how inclusive Sharp Foundation is, “They focus on a harm reduction approach and meet their clients where they are with no barriers. It is quite impressive how few barriers they have for their program and how you can see how much each staff truly cares about the well-being of each client and wants them to get better but at their own pace.”
Kimberly Riczu, Team Lead with the Sharp Foundation says this partnership is invaluable. “It’s comforting to know that we don’t need to worry about sourcing all the food we need because the Calgary Food Bank is there to supply so much, and we can focus on providing the support and care that our residents need.” While most of the food is prepared by staff, some of the residents enjoying cooking and will often prepare their own meals, using the food provided through the Calgary Food Bank’s Food Link Program. Soon, the Sharp Foundation will also access the Welcome Home Hamper Program, which contains pantry staples, cleaning supplies, and hygiene items that will be put to use by people who graduate into secure housing. Riczu says they are looking forward to being able to offer this type of hamper to graduates, “We are excited to take advantage of the Welcome Home Hamper program offered by the Calgary Food Bank.” Riczu agreed that community partners must continue to find ways to work together to support vulnerable people in our community. Only together can we fight hunger and its root causes.
More information on The Sharp Foundation
Message from Interim President
Happy New Year, everyone! As the Interim President for the past three months, the role has kept me busy, exposing me to the many intricate pieces of the organization and experiencing how they all fit together to feed the thousands of people who come to us every week.
I have seen firsthand the generosity of Calgarians and how they come together to help their neighbours in need. We raised millions in food and funds during this past holiday alone. Incredible! Two long-running campaigns – CBC’s 37th Annual “Make the Season Kind” and the 34th Annual Mayors Food Drive – were quite successful. Our food industry partners were generous, providing fresh produce and seasonal goodies for the hampers. All food and fundraising efforts, large and small, from companies, sports teams, and volunteer groups to families, and individuals, ensure we can continue to meet the demand for emergency food support well into the new year.
What is ahead for 2023? Unfortunately, the need for food has unrelentingly continued. Many people every day are making difficult choices between rent and food. Costs are still on the rise, incomes are not keeping pace with inflation, and for those feeling the pinch, food budgets are easier to change than other expenses. In some critical cases, our fellow Calgarians skip meals so their children can eat.
This year, more than ever, we want to raise attention to the root causes of food insecurity. As Calgarians, Albertans and Canadians, we will be working to rally our community to address root causes – it is far past time to end the need for anyone to come to the food bank!
As part of the 34th Annual Mayor’s Food Drive in support of the Calgary Food Bank, city councilors took part in a fun battle for the first time ever. They were challenged to raise food and funds between December 1st and 11th. The winner, by a long shot, was Ward 5 Councilor Raj Dhaliwal. He and his constituents raised over 19,000 dollars’ worth of food, including funds. The runner-up was Ward 5, Kourtney Penner whose team brought in over $7,000. The first Councillor’s Challenge collected over 80,000.00 dollars in food and funds.
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