Re­gional fall ban­quet high­lights work of Food­grains Bank to end hunger

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG mlieben­berg@prairiepos­

Sup­port­ers of the Cana­dian Food­grains Bank had an op­por­tu­nity to learn more about the or­ga­ni­za­tion's work to end hunger dur­ing a re­gional fall ban­quet in Swift Cur­rent, Nov. 20.

The event at the Trail­view Al­liance Church was co-hosted by the pro­vin­cial co­or­di­na­tors of the Food­grains Bank in as­so­ci­a­tion with the lo­cal Grass­lands Grow­ing Pro­ject, which co­or­di­nates two com­mu­nity projects in the Swift Cur­rent area.

Representa­tives from dif­fer­ent grow­ing projects in south­west Saskatchew­an shared some in­for­ma­tion about their ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the meet­ing. Rick and Jacquie Block, the re­gional representa­tives for the Food­grains Bank in Saskatchew­an, made a pre­sen­ta­tion about the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­ter­na­tional ef­forts.

The Food­grains Bank funded 117 projects in 34 coun­tries at a to­tal cost of $37.6 mil­lion dur­ing the pe­riod April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

There are cur­rently 27 grow­ing projects in Saskatchew­an, in­clud­ing some new projects through a part­ner­ship with Viterra to make land avail­able around three grain ter­mi­nals in the prov­ince. In 2017 the grow­ing projects and other fundrais­ing ef­forts in Saskatchew­an raised $2.5 mil­lion for the Food­grains Bank.

A re­cent anal­y­sis by Char­ity In­tel­li­gence Canada listed the Food­grains Bank as one of the top 10 im­pact char­i­ties for 2018. The 10 char­i­ties on the list are all de­liv­er­ing re­turns of six times on the dol­lar while the av­er­age re­turn is one to two times on the dol­lar.

Ac­cord­ing to Rick Block, the re­gional fall ban­quet was a great op­por­tu­nity to bring to­gether those who sup­port the work of the Food­grains Bank.

“What I re­ally en­joyed here was see­ing a re­ally good show­ing by many peo­ple who rep­re­sent busi­nesses that are in­volved in sup­port­ing grow­ing projects in the south­west,” he said after­wards. “We see peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing busi­nesses, we see peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing churches, we see fam­i­lies who are in­volved in their own in­di­vid­ual farm that of­ten pro­vide just sim­ply a grain do­na­tion each year. We see fam­i­lies here that will just pro­vide a gen­eral do­na­tion per­haps through their church and then lots of fam­i­lies that are in­volved specif­i­cally with the projects, and so it's just a re­ally nice gath­er­ing of peo­ple from all around the south­west.”

These re­gional ban­quets take place an­nu­ally in Saskatchew­an, usu­ally in two lo­ca­tions ev­ery fall. The lo­ca­tions will change from year to year. Last year the fall ban­quets were in Melfort and Moose Jaw. In ad­di­tion to this year’s fall ban­quet in Swift Cur­rent there are two in­for­ma­tion lun­cheons, one in Foam Lake and the other in North Battleford.

“Peo­ple en­joy con­nect­ing with each other from var­i­ous projects,” he said. “Some­times they're talk­ing with each other at maybe agri­cul­tural fairs, they might see each other in town, say in Swift Cur­rent. This is a chance where we get to con­gre­gate more peo­ple who in some ways share a com­mon vi­sion to help end world hunger and to work to­gether, es­pe­cially through a lot of these grow­ing projects. It cer­tainly is a good op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide a bit of an up­date and then es­pe­cially through guest speak­ers it is a way to con­vey some of the pas­sion and vi­sion of what the Food­grains Bank en­vi­sions.”

The guest speak­ers at the re­gional fall ban­quet in Swift Cur­rent were Marion and Randy Aus­mus from Leader. Marion is one of two representa­tives for Cana­dian Lutheran World Re­lief on the Food­grains Bank board of di­rec­tors.

Randy is the chair of the South­west Grow­ing Pro­ject in the Leader area. The group har­vested their 13th crop in 2018 and this grow­ing pro­ject has con­trib­uted a to­tal of $629,000 to the Food­grains Bank.

They spoke about their trip to Ethiopia in 2015 to learn more about the work of the Food­grains Bank in that African coun­try. They pre­vi­ously vis­ited Ethiopia in 2010 on a food study tour.

In 2015 they at­tended a con­ser­va­tion agri­cul­ture con­fer­ence, which gave them in­sight into the agri­cul­tural chal­lenges faced by farm­ers in the coun­try. After­wards they spent an­other 10 days in Ethiopia to learn more about other Food­grains Bank projects, in­clud­ing a pro­gram to sup­port or­phans and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren. For both of them these vis­its were life chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Any per­son who even has a heart for giv­ing, to help­ing out other peo­ple through­out the world, should go, be­cause you learn so much,” Marion told the Prairie Post. “I think we re­ally learned that we're in this to­gether. We have some­thing to of­fer, but they have a lot to of­fer us, and we have lot to learn in North Amer­ica about poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and hunger. I think we're quite ig­no­rant to it.”

Randy agreed that a food study tour is un­like any other trip and it will be an ex­pe­ri­ence that one will never for­get.

“What sticks out in my mind is the peo­ple you meet, the friends you make,” he said. “They're just reg­u­lar peo­ple like we are and we're all equal in God's sight and be­cause we live in a coun­try where there's more food that doesn't re­ally change much. So the peo­ple you meet is the most im­por­tant thing.”

These trips pro­vided them with even more mo­ti­va­tion to sup­port the in­ter­na­tional ef­forts of the Food­grains Bank to ad­dress hunger and poverty.

“It con­firmed in me that they are re­ally do­ing an in­cred­i­ble job, be­cause if I'm go­ing to do­nate to some­thing, I want to know that it's get­ting to where it's sup­posed to go,” Marion said. “I want to know that it's hav­ing an im­pact and all those ques­tions were an­swered a hun­dred­fold for me and so it has spurred me on per­son­ally to want to give more, to do what­ever I can to help, be­cause I can see that they're do­ing an in­cred­i­ble job and the food re­ally does get there and it makes a huge dif­fer­ence. We think it's al­most noth­ing that we give in Canada, be­cause com­pared to our econ­omy it isn't re­ally a whole lot, but it has such a huge im­pact.”

Both were im­pressed with the or­phan and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren’s pro­ject in Ethiopia, which is dif­fer­ent from a typ­i­cal Food­grains Bank pro­ject and is done in part­ner­ship with the or­ga­ni­za­tion Food for the Hun­gry.

It's just amaz­ing to see what a dif­fer­ence a lit­tle bit of sup­port from Canada can make in the lives of those chil­dren who are des­ti­tute,” she said. “With­out help their lives are go­ing to be noth­ing, they will not have op­por­tu­nity for ed­u­ca­tion or to fur­ther them­selves and so that's where I think my heart was so stolen in that pro­ject is that it had such a huge im­pact in the chil­dren’s lives.”

Randy was im­pressed that grad­u­ates from this pro­gram, who are now adults and em­ployed, are giv­ing back and even spon­sor­ing chil­dren in the pro­gram.

“They're go­ing to help to sus­tain it as well,” he said. “I think that's maybe the vi­sion that some of these kids that came out of poverty and now have a ca­reer will drive some of this.”

The Food­grains Bank is in­volved in projects to pro­mote con­ser­va­tion agri­cul­ture as a way to cre­ate long-term food se­cu­rity for peo­ple. Ethiopia has a dry cli­mate and the fo­cus of the pro­gram is on zero tillage and to get lo­cal farm­ers to use mulch cover to re­duce soil evap­o­ra­tion rates.

“It's ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial that peo­ple im­prove their agri­cul­tural prac­tices,” he said. “I've seen what it did on my farm when we went to zero till. It just keeps build­ing and build­ing and gets bet­ter ev­ery year. The ben­e­fits will be even more dra­matic there be­cause of the cli­mate. They could very quickly dou­ble the amount of food they're able to grow.”

Rick Block, the Food­grains Bank re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Saskatchew­an, speaks at the re­gional fall ban­quet, Nov. 20.

Randy and Marion Aus­mus shared their ex­pe­ri­ences from a 2015 trip to Ethiopia with the au­di­ence at the re­gional fall ban­quet, Nov. 20.

Pho­tos by Matthew Lieben­berg

The re­gional fall ban­quet in Swift Cur­rent brought to­gether Food­grains Bank sup­port­ers from across south­west Saskatchew­an.

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