The ‘30 for 30 challenge’ helped increase the number of Growing Projects to 250 across Canada, including 40 in Manitoba
There’s a tiny corn and pumpkin patch in south Winnipeg that the church folk who tend it call the ‘Mulch and Hoe.’ They sell the produce, accept donations, and think about the needs of a hungry world.
‘Singing in the Grain’ is the name of a series of concerts put on by a variety of choirs that raises tens of thousands of dollars every year.
Both are Growing Projects of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB)and represent some of the new, and increasingly diverse ways Manitobans are raising money for the food assistance agency. They’re part of what’s now about 40 projects in Manitoba supporting the work of the CFGB.
Elsewhere in the country, Growing Projects usually mean quarter sections, said Harold Penner, the agency’ s regional co-ordinator.
“We’re a little different here in Manitoba,” he said. “We have all kinds of Growing Projects. We have one that is less than half an acre inside the city of Winnipeg. We have one that is 570 acres in the southern part of the province. And we have everything in between.”
This fall, another new venture is planned — an auction sale at Grunthal Auction Mart on Dec. 10.
Representatives of many of those 40 projects gathered at Milltown Hutterite Colony west of Elie last week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the CFGB, which has grown to encompass 15 churches and church agencies representing 32 denominations.
Attendees were reminded their projects are part of a much larger and ambitious effort.
“This is a vision framed in a divine, rather than human, definition of the possible,” said CFGB executive director Jim Cornelius.
“We have a vision of the world without hunger, and we’re called to the mission of ending hunger. But I think it’s important for us to understand that it’s not really our mission. It is part of God’s mission in the world. It is part of the activity of God in the world.”
Last year, in partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency, the CFGB provided $43.9 million worth of assistance to 2.1 million people in 36 countries, including 40,000 tonnes of food.
The Growing Projects — 250 nationally encompassing 5,600 acres — are key to that effort, Penner said. That’s the largest number ever, thanks to the enthusiastic response to the ‘30 for 30 challenge,’ which asked farmers to donate the proceeds from 30 acres of land (or 30 bushels or 30 tonnes of grain) and individuals to give $30 (or $300 or $3,000 or any other amount). Manitoba’s largest is the 570-acre SHARE project, located between Morden and Thornhill. But the projects come in all sizes and are located across the province, from Mossey River and Fairfax to Morden and Darlingford. Many groups have faithfully sown fields every year since Growing Projects began in the mid-1990s.
“When we first started, we were just collecting grain from farmers and then we used to have our grain drives,” Penner said. “It was around then when Growing Projects came into being.”
Their impact goes beyond the significant revenues they’ve raised, he said.
“Every one of them, no matter the size, is a reminder to the community of hunger in the world and the fact that we can help. ”
The CFGB provides both direct food assistance as well as helping citizens in countries rebuild after natural disasters or human conflicts through food-for-work programs.
Cornelius described visiting Ethiopia nearly 30 years after one of its first food-for-work programs enabled local residents to build an irrigation project.
“As we were driving out to it the land was dry and parched,” he recalled. “Suddenly we came over the hill into the area and it was like entering an oasis, where water has come to the desert.
“It was quite amazing to see fruit trees and all sorts of crops growing in the area.”
Residents said the irrigation “has been life for our community” and enabled them to withstand ensuing droughts without food assistance, he said.
Cornelius said he’s often asked if there has been any progress in the battle against hunger.
“The answer is tremendous progress has been made,” he said. “Forty years ago, over 35 per cent of the world’s population was hungry. Today, it’s closer to 16 per cent of the world’s population.” That’s a substantial decline “and we together have been part of that effort,” he added.
However, there is still much to do, he said. There are 870 million still without adequate food and looming challenges that could easily reverse this progress, he said.
The 30th anniversary is a time for the organization to look at ways to continue its work, consider new approaches and strengthen the quality of its program, Cornelius said.
And, he added, he hopes to see more new and innovative Growing Projects.
“We’d like to grow the family,” he said.