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Customer Focus: Canadian Foodgrains Bank

"A Christian response to hunger informs everything we do"

Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies working together to end global hunger. We spoke to Communications Coordinator Amanda Thorsteinsson about their 35 years of history, their mission, and the role of mothers and children in their work.

Sharing Food with People in Need

The 1974 Bangladesh famine forms the background for the creation of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFB). In the same period, farmers in western Canada were enjoying bumper crops, and they wanted to share their crops with people in Asia who were hungry. Canadian government policies at the time didn’t permit this though.

When the farmers called on Mennonite Central Committee Canada to find a way to help, it proposed the creation of a food bank that could receive grain from the farmers. Other church agencies joined that effort. Now the Foodgrains Bank comprises of 15 churches and church-based agencies across Canada. Together, they represent 30 denominations. Individuals, churches, community groups, businesses and the Canadian government all support the organization

“Our mission is to end hunger and we do that in several ways,” says Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Coordinator at the Foodgrains Bank. “The first one is providing food assistance in times of emergency, for example in Syria and South Sudan.”

The second way is comprised of agriculture and livelihood projects which focus on helping people provide food for themselves and their families in the longer term. “We help small scale farmers increase their yield by providing training.”

The third part of CFB’s mission is nutrition work. “We provide severely malnutritioned children with food as well as providing nutrition education, for example about breast feeding and proper complimentary feeding.”

The Foodgrains Bank also advocates for better national and international policies to help end hunger, and seeks to engage and educate Canadians about global hunger.

An Inspiring Encounter in Kenya

For Amanda it is always very meaningful to see how people’s lives overseas are transformed by what is generously donated in Canada. One encounter which really stands out in her mind is with a woman called Piah Wanjagi.

“I met her on a trip to Kenya, where I was visiting a conservation agriculture project of our member Canadian Baptist Ministries. Piah was an 87-year-old grandmother who was caring for 4 of her orphaned grandchildren. She was a widow and had 4 hectare of land, which is pretty small.”

As Piah told Amanda, her yields were OK, but it was hard to have enough food to feed her grandchildren the year round. Extra costs such as school fees were a problem too. “For a grandmother in her eighties, it was really hard for her,” Amanda says.

Then Piah heard about the conservation agriculture program offered through a local partner of Foodgrains Bank member Canadian Baptist Ministries in her community. She wanted to give it a try. “Conservation agriculture helps small farmers like Pia improve their yield by helping them improve the fertility of their soil and maximize the use of limited rainfall,” Amanda explains.

“Pia started implementing these new techniques. She worked incredibly hard and she was able to improve her yield greatly. When a neighboring village had a drought, she was actually able to provide emergency food to them. She donated 4 kilograms of beans and 6 kilograms of maize from her yield. For her that was a way to give back what she was given.”

“God doesn’t want anyone to be hungry”

The Foodgrains Bank  is comprised of churches that have different interpretations of the Bible, including the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, and the United Church.

“What is really amazing: We are united in the common belief that we think that God doesn’t want anyone to be hungry,” Amanda says passionately. “A Christian response to hunger informs everything we do. We know that a lot of people give to the Foodgrains Bank because they believe the same things that we do. CFB is a way to reach out to their neighbors around the world and show them love.”

“Women are disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination”

Mothers play an important role in the Foodgrains Bank’s work. As Amanda clarifies, “In humanitarian crises they tend to be more vulnerable than men, they also tend to be disproportionately affected by poverty and discrimination.”

In a lot of countries where there is hunger, women do the majority of work on the farm. “So by supporting the mothers’ efforts to grow better crops, we can improve the health and the well-being of the entire family.”

How to Get Involved

If you are inspired by the Foodgrains Bank’s work, there are 4 ways you can get involved. Amanda sums up, “You can pray for the needs of people who are hungry around the world. You can give by making a donation. You can learn about global hunger and share what you have learned with your family and your community. And you can advocate by contacting your local elected official and sharing with them why you care about the needs of hungry people around the world.”

We’re proud to serve Canadian Foodgrains Bank and all organizations willing to help people anywhere in the world. Do you have questions regarding humanitarian travel? Never hesitate to contact us through our quick address locator should you have any questions.

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