Food program for Edmonton newcomers and refugees at risk

Edmonton's Grocery Run Program, which provides food to newcomers and refugees, has launched a Go Fund Me campaign In order to survive. The organization says demand for the service is rising and its funding will end in December.

Organization hoping Edmontonians can help

Grocery Run Program volunteers pack boxes and bags full of food that will be given to families prior to Thanksgiving. (Jamie McCannel/CBC )

An Edmonton program that helps provide food to more than 500 newcomer and refugee families is asking for help from the public after its funding was cut.

Officials with the Grocery Run Program, say funding from the Edmonton Community Foundation, United Way, food rescue charity Second Harvest, and the federal government and private donors was short-term and will end in December.

"They were focused on emergency response rather than on longer-term strategies," said Catherine Bangel, who handles public relations for the program, which is administered by the Multicultural Health Brokers Collective.

"A lot of granting bodies have limitations on what you can spend money on and the Grocery Run is a workers co-op, they aren't recognized as a non-profit. That's an additional challenge we have to navigate." 

The organization says the cuts come as demand rises for the service due to the pandemic and without the program, many families will not be able to put food on the table.

"We started serving 100 families in March and now we currently serve 550," said Julia Tran, the food dignity program manager of the Grocery Run. 

These numbers provided by the Grocery Run Program show the impact of the pandemic on its clients. (mchb.org/groceryrun)

The organization says many families are struggling due to job and income loss, lack of affordable housing, precarious work conditions, and now public health restrictions due to COVID-19.

"Unfortunately a lot of our families are really experiencing the highest degree of poverty," Tran said.

"We found that a significant number of families were actually spending about 75 per cent to 100 per cent of their total income on housing so of course that leaves very little to no financial resources to pay for food."

The organization says more than half of the 3,200 people it helps each week are children.

The program helps hundreds of families in need. (Jamie McCannel/CBC )

The program, which has only one full-time employee and relies heavily on volunteers, has now launched a Go Fund Me campaign. 

"Our goal is to raise $150,000, which seems like a really crazy number, but this number actually breaks down to supporting 600 families for a year," Tran said.   

Edmontonians are already stepping up with more than $30,000 collected so far.