The Southwest Booster

Foodgrains Bank executive shares hope at Swift Current anniversar­y


The executive director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank shared a message of hope and common purpose at a 40th anniversar­y supper in Swift Current, Nov. 14.

Andy Harrington was the featured speaker during an evening of reflection about four decades of dedicated effort to end global hunger.

He provided an update on the current food security situation in the world and spoke about the need to continue the organizati­on’s work. The event in Swift Current was part of a national tour that began in March to commemorat­e this organizati­onal milestone and to look ahead to the future. Harrington said afterwards during a media interview that these anniversar­y events provide him with an opportunit­y to say thank you.

“I think I benefit when I thank others,” he noted. “I think thankfulne­ss is a gift that we’re given.”

These opportunit­ies to express thanks do not only happen at larger events, but also while he is sitting in a kitchen on a farm or when he talks to farmers in their fields.

“That would be the most important thing for me,” he said. “And also making connection with our stakeholde­rs, the people who have really been at the heart of Foodgrains Bank for these 40 years, is a very special thing, “So helping them to stay involved and helping them to realize how important they are I think is critical.”

The internatio­nal work of the Foodgrains Bank is supported by over 250 growing projects across Canada that bring farmers and communitie­s together in a united effort to produce and harvest a crop.

“These growing projects give us the proceeds and we’re able to buy food around the world with that,” he said. “That’s a unique model. It means that we have thousands of people across the country who are not only donating, but that actually involve themselves in feeding the poor and I think that’s a strength for us.”

The Foodgrains Bank also aims to connect with urban Canadians who want to support the goal to end global hunger. This is done through the Grow Hope initiative as well as other efforts.

“There is more and more need around the world and we have huge urban centres here in Canada,” he said. “So we’re starting to do more work in those urban centres, Grow Hope is a project where we can get people in urban centres to sponsor the cost of land for farmers so they can have growing projects. It’s a way to join rural and urban together, but we’re now also more engaged in getting our message out through digital media. We’re educating the Canadian public about the causes of hunger so that they can be involved.”

Food insecurity is increasing around the world. He noted that 783 million people are in chronic hunger, which is 120 million more than before the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Food Program reports that more than 40 million people are on the edge of or in famine. One in five children around the world suffers from malnutriti­on.

Harrington mentioned that conflict, climate change and economic disruption are three major reasons for global food insecurity. Over 110 million people in the world have been displaced from their homes due to conflict.

Climate change is already causing dramatic impacts in sub-saharan Africa, for example there has been six failed rainy seasons in the Horn of Africa. Economic disruption causes higher inflation and interest rates around the world, which contribute­s to food insecurity. It also makes it more expensive to provide food assistance, for example the cost of a food basket has increased as much as 60 per cent in some of the countries where the Foodgrains Bank is working.

From April 2022 to March 2023 the Foodgrains Bank provided $79.85 million of assistance to over 1.1 million people in 36 countries. The organizati­on’s

new five-year strategic framework has a goal to continue to develop sector leading, locally-driven innovative partnershi­ps that by 2026 will support systemic change to increase food security for at least 1.5 million people each year.

The achievemen­t of this goal will require ongoing support from Canadians for the work of the Foodgrains Bank, but challengin­g economic conditions might have an impact on donations and the federal government has cut its overseas developmen­t assistance budget.

“We’re very aware it’s getting tougher out there,” he said. “So we’re taking steps to work with that. We’re building out strategies in order to attract more people. We’re looking at other sources of funding and income and we’re looking at ways in which we can make our work more efficient.”

Harrington’s presentati­on did not only refer to the broad picture of the work being done by the Foodgrains Bank around the world. He shared details of his personal encounters with individual­s who benefit from the organizati­on’s support.

He met a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who is thankful for the food assistance provided through Foodgrains Bank partner organizati­ons. He spoke to a woman at a food distributi­on centre in

Ethiopia who used to be a small-scale farmer, but she lost everything due to drought. She could not feed all four her children every day before the food assistance, but now she has hope for a better future when the drought is over.

He met another woman in Ethiopia who participat­ed in a conservati­on agricultur­e project, which helps farmers to adjust their agricultur­al practices to a changing climate. She has successful­ly used the training provided by the project to improve the productivi­ty of her family’s farm, despite the initial scepticism of her husband. These practices allowed their farm to be more resilient during a period of drought and they survived it.

Harrington felt it is important to not only focus on statistics and budget numbers, but to talk about the human beings who gain a sense of hope for the future.

“Every one of the zeros in those big millions represents a mother, a father, a brother, a child,” he said. “They’re not just pictures on a TV screen. They’re human beings. They have exactly the same dreams and desires that you and I have and our families have. We have to remember every single time that these are humans and there is no other. There’s just us all in this together.”

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 ?? ?? Canadian Foodgrains Bank Executive Director Andy Harrington makes a presentati­on during the 40th anniversar­y supper in Swift Current, Nov. 14. (Below): It was a full house
Canadian Foodgrains Bank Executive Director Andy Harrington makes a presentati­on during the 40th anniversar­y supper in Swift Current, Nov. 14. (Below): It was a full house

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