The Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s executive director made a recent stop in Lacombe to help celebrate the Central Alberta Foodgrains Growing Project’s 25th anniversary.
It was actually a ‘23 plus three years’ celebration as the event had been put on hold due to the pandemic these past few years.
However, ED Andy Harrington was able to join supporters and friends in the celebration at Lincoln Hall with 150 people in attendance.
It was also announced the project has located land to grow a crop for 2023.
Committee Member Doug Maas said it’s about 85 acres adjacent to the town of Bentley.
“Last year, on 58 acres – we raised $105,500! We had a good canola crop, but people also know about us – we’ve been around since 1996.” That translated into more generous support and donations of additional crops and cash from the surrounding communities.
“Once we get a project going, we can generate a lot of enthusiasm and momentum,” he said.
“It truly is a community event.”
There are 218 such growing projects nationwide – 31 right here in Alberta
Meanwhile, Harrington noted the CFB is the federal government’s biggest partner in terms of strengthening food security on a global scale.
“We are programming, at any given time, around 115 projects per year,” he explained.
These run the gamut from emergency food assistance in a crisis situation such as the Turkey-Syria earthquake to the ongoing drought plaguing the horn of Africa.
This past year, the CFB also provided more than $50 million in support for small farmers and those who are facing hunger around the world, he said.
Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of 15 church and church-based agencies working to end global hunger. Members represent nearly 30 Christian denominations made up of over 12,000 individual congregations across Canada.
Harrington said overall, the hunger crisis is getting much worse.
“We’ve seen the numbers of those going hungry rise dramatically. In 2019, there were about 680 million people we would classify as severely hungry around the world. That number had actually been reducing for a number of years but started to pick up again before COVID,” he said.
“Between 2019 and 2021 it went up to about 828 million. We are also projecting that those numbers will rise substantially.”
Harrington said about 50 million people around the world are also on the brink of famine and that 42 per cent of childhood deaths are due to malnutrition.
“We have 26 million people who are acutely hungry on the horn of Africa at the moment – it’s the sixth failed rainy season which is unprecedented. So we are responding across the world.”
This includes launching 11 projects across the horn of Africa – Somalia, South Sudan, Northern Kenya, and Ethiopia – to help combat the crushing impact of drought.
Other regions of particular focus these days include Yemen, Lebanon, and Ukraine – where due to the war there have been massive disruptions in food delivery as well.
And while we see soaring food prices here at home, Harrington said it’s the same case in developing nations.
And typically, there is absolutely no social safety net to rely on.
“A woman in Ethiopia we met at a feeding station said that each day, she has to basically decide which of her children will eat on that day. That’s a daily reality for tens of millions of people around the world today,” he said.
Thankfully, Harrington noted Canadians have proven to be relatively generous even in challenging times.
“I saw a survey that showed even in a time of economic downturn, while there are fewer people giving because we’ve seen a demographic change, we’ve actually seen a rise in charitable giving.”
But of course, the challenges are immense.
To that end, it’s vital to remember the human ‘face’ of hunger.
“When I talk about 828 million people going hungry around the world, you can get lost in that figure. But when you meet Luka in Rwanda, who I met recently, these are real people. The first thing I would say is, don’t get lost in the numbers. Start thinking about what if this was your family, or if this was your child.
“Start to think what it would be like to experience real hunger – that gnawing hunger that makes you wonder if you are going to be able to get through the day.
“Let’s remember that every human being is valuable,” he said.
He also emphasized that each one of us has the choice to make a difference. Even small gifts can have a profound effect.
“Let’s make sure we are using our resources wisely and well, and in a just way,” he added.
“I like to use the phrase, ‘There are no ‘others’. There is just ‘us’.”
For more about how to help, visit foodgrainsbank.ca.
Also, find ‘Central Alberta Foodgrains Growing Project’ on Facebook for more information and updates.