Edmontonians step up to keep food bank open at Africa Centre
'We are not able to do this without community support'
A food bank that has become a lifeline in the African community during the pandemic will keep its doors open thanks to the generosity of Edmontonians.
Black-led organizations launched the African Diaspora Food bank last May in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, handing out more than a hundred hampers each week.
In January, organizers warned that the food bank was at risk of closing this month with one-time donations drying up from non-profit agencies and private companies.
That's now changed with donations from individuals, businesses, agencies and a new fundraising drive.
For every dollar donated to the African Diaspora Food Bank by March 31st, Servus Credit Union will match it up to a total of $20,000. Donations can be made through the Africa Centre website.
"COVID-19 has disproportionately affected racialized communities, and we have seen increased food insecurity within the African descent community due to the pandemic. The food initiative aims to provide a safe space for Edmontonian's to receive support in a culturally inclusive setting, but we are not able to do this without community support," said Sharif Haji, executive director of Africa Centre.
Servus Credit Union offered to help after reading about the food bank's unique service that provides culturally appropriate food to clients.
Food hampers are tailor-made for each family whether it's injera, an Ethiopian fermented flatbread, or turtle beans, popular in the Caribbean.
"That unique need is something that really spoke to us and our team at Servus," said Scott Lundell, manager of community engagement at Servus Credit Union.
Supporting a number of Alberta food banks over the past year, Lundell said the aim of Servus is to help lift people out of poverty by supporting local solutions — something needed even more so during the pandemic.
"The organizations in the community, we found, have seen a sharp decline in revenues, both in terms of government funding as well as private donations and that's where we find an opportunity to step up where we can," Lundell said.
The food bank has received two rounds of funding from the Edmonton Community Foundation totaling $89,000, as well as donations from Islamic Relief, Loblaws and other local organizations.
With the new injection of cash, Sharif said his hope is to keep the food bank open until everyone is vaccinated.
"It just amazes me, honestly," said Sharif about support for the food bank. "What it tells me is, Edmonton is a community that cares for each other."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.