Foodgrains Bank bringing food aid to locked-down families

Manitoba growing projects preparing to plant as fundraising becomes crucial

Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing projects in Manitoba are preparing to plant as usual despite the complications of COVID-19.

These fundraisers will be more crucial than ever, as a worldwide health crisis quickly is becoming a food crisis, the organization says.

“The situation is very dire. Families can’t last more than a few more weeks like this,” said Nadia Khouri, executive director of Tahhadi, a CFGB partner in Lebanon.

Khouri spoke during an April 23 CFGB webinar on the effect of COVID-19 on world hunger.

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Tahhadi works with Syrian refugees in Beirut. Lebanon was already in the midst of an economic crisis, she said, which had driven up food prices and was creating dire circumstances for families who live off day labour and selling various small services.

Lockdown in early March took away many of these sources of income, Khouri said.

“Within the first few days, we sensed a deep panic within the community. People did not know where their next meal would come from,” said Khouri.

Through Tahhadi’s partnership with CFGB, the organization was able to react quickly said Khouri. They’ve provided essential food for about 500 families.

The situation is similar in the slums of Nairobi, said CFGB executive director Jim Cornelius.

“They have no way to earn an income,” he said.

Governments of developing countries are working to keep food systems moving and are scrambling to get relief to citizens, but many families aren’t getting help, Cornelius said.

CFGB continues to work with member churches to provide emergency food for families, but development projects have been disrupted. Training meetings and field meetings are restricted. Field staff are connecting with people where they can, and trained farmer leaders are still able to communicate with their neighbours.

Cornelius said he’s thankful for the funds raised by growing projects and other donors, which CFGB is drawing down. In the first two weeks of April, CFGB approved over $2 million in food assistance programming in Syria, Lebanon and South Sudan, and more will be approved soon.

CFGB has had to cancel fundraising banquets and an auction in Manitoba this spring. The auction raised $30,000 last year. Canada-wide, the organization has seen a 12 per cent decrease in donations for the month of March, or about $100,000.

This will have some effect, said a spokesperson for CFGB, but more fundraising events happen in fall.

“We will have to wait to see how COVID-19 affects those events,” the spokesperson said.

About the author

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Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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